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Your breasts, bare, against my memory of the Taj Mahal

Sanam Sheriff

Legend goes: upon its completion, Emperor Shah Jahan— 

wanting nothing more beautiful to ever be built— 

ordered the amputation of each laborer’s hands. 

Here are my wrists— turn them open. 

Here, my travelled fingers, all their life 

growing green for your clay basin:  


neem, tulsi, the earth they reach  

into and out of, into, and out of— 


here is my fistbloom, and there, inside  

music’s memory box, our first monsoon; 

the night husked open above us and needled 


with stars. The moon: a wish in its well. 

My heart awash with the song of a thousand 

silver bells— take what I know of giving.  


There is a country I come from, and a God I return to.  


In the land where they meet, there is no word 

for what we are; so I may love you and belong 

only to your bread and root?  


Mehbooba. Meri nashili dua.  

Teri dastak yeh dil ki dhadkan,  

teri awaaz andheri khamoshi ki halchal.  


Take my hands— my feral birds.  

There will be no more tombs for this love; 

for that which has only come to dance
before the dirge, before taking wing—

Sanam Sheriff is a queer poet and artist from Bangalore, India. They have received support from the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, The Watering Hole, Pink Door, and The Seventh Wave. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Virginia Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, The Academy of American Poets, The Offing, Vinyl Poetry & Prose, Black Warrior Review, Kweli Journal, Shade Literary Arts, and elsewhere. Sanam holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis.

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