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LEILA CHATTI

 

 

Leila ChattiLeila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. The recipient of awards from Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest, Nimrod Journal's Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry, and the Academy of American Poets, her work appears in Best New Poets 2015, Narrative, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

______

 

 

After Another Attempt at Eighteen

Of Love, Sappho Wrote

Portraits of Leila Chatti by Margaret Creedon O'Shea

 

______

 

 

After Another Attempt at Eighteen

 

 

 

I keep the door open. It has been three days

and I do not want to be left alone here, lowered

 

into the tub like a grave plot,

my body before me.

 

Gathered on the rim, witnesses, mourners:

plastic dinosaur, matchbox car, row of green soldiers

 

gripping their guns. My brothers used to play

with these during baths, submerging then raising

 

them—triumphant—in their fists.

My mother made them bathe together

 

so they would not drown: if one went under

the other could pull him up or call out.

 

Her sister died alone, body flooded with smoke. Before this,

my aunt and I would sit in the tub facing

 

each other like reflections, water gone cold, white bellies

prickled with gooseflesh, the dent in the center gathering

 

its dark pool. Cupped in her palms, the water like dirt;

handfuls poured over my head.

 

The tub is still. I topple the toys from their perch,

the men crouched and bracing, the car plunging into the deep.

 

I sink beneath. The water rises, every drifting thing

disturbed. I surface again and they dip, shiver.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Of Love, Sappho Wrote

 

 

sweetbitter—and of course

 

the tongue is the muscle

of heartache, the one

 

which defines as separate

territories of the body—

 

throat and lip and ridge

of pelvic bone, nipple pink

 

as dawn in the mouth—

I have tasted

 

surfacing your garland

of hair, salt, you have come

 

to my well and drank—

if again you leave

 

leave fully, for

the return is grief

 

of an acute kind—

last we touched

 

summer pulsed

like a fever, I fed you

 

blackberries in bed,

dark swallows

 

of sweetness—you stained

my body

 

with each kiss

 

 

 

©2016 Leila Chatti

 

 

Portraits of Leila Chatti by Margaret Creedon O'Shea,
drawn during the 2016 Cork International Poetry Festival

Leila Chatti by Mags O'SheaLeila Chatti by Mags O'Shea two

 

 

Author Links

 

Leila Chatti homepage

Selection of Leila Chatti poems at Narrative

'Ode to Ugly Things' at Poets.org

 

 

 

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