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temple body

CAS for Database

Sarah Fathima Mohammed

San Jose, California

The Harker School


i just wanted to memorize the sanctity of permission.

so i whittled my body into a golden cathedral, beating

soft & shuddering, just to prove there was something

buried in the valleys of my form that could not be

trespassed & abandoned, again & again. just to prove

i was heavy as powdered red brick, holiness gleaming

pure & unmarked. just to prove the world allowed dual

entry: i could baptize a mouth swollen like a stained

plum on the marble of my spine as gaping dawn, split

wide open. or i could pull away like melted petals,

watching dusk settle into the temple of my body.

in this world, i thought i would no longer lay frozen

within myself, wild & afraid, arms splayed

like scattered ellipsis. because what mattered

most was not the shape of the church but the warmth

inside its spilling veins: my heart pebbled with the heat

of hazy maple armor running thin as cello strings

but sonorous like the aching shadows of possession

through the stained-glass panes, flush with light.

outside, the sun dripped freely down the crevices

of the earth, burning & forbidden. the thighs

of the hinterlands whispered my name in the dark,

possibility shuttering in & out. i thought my body

became a shrine, worshipped & protected for the sake

of itself. but the fire-lipped shackles of womanhood

never fell away. & the next bitter night, i was pressed

back on another bed that wasn’t mine, frayed cotton

sheets moving in sluggish timbre, yielding like drowning

water. undulating again & again.


In "temple body," the author uses the metaphor of a cathedral to explore our ownership of our bodies, and when they are violated against our will. Flush with figurative language and unapologetic emotion, the poem grips all of the reader's senses and refuses to let go.

Sarah Fathima Mohammed is a brown, Muslim-American writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work appears or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Diode, Apprentice Writer, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Poetry Society of the UK, and the National Poetry Quarterly’s Editors’ Choice Prize, among others. When she is not writing, she serves as managing editor for The Aurora Review and genre editor for Polyphony Lit.


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