Wounded Body When I am ten, my grandmother squeezes my flabby stomach with small, raisined hands. This is the closest we have been. I am taught a woman should keep her distance before marriage, save touch like thirst and wait for a man’s mouth to drink from. In the communal harvest shed behind the village huts, my grandmother wraps black fabric over my white kurti. It billows at my waist like a breath. Spreads over my chest as hands gasping open, white petals. Burka stretching over my lips as another mouth. This is a body close enough to kiss. I have never felt anything more human. I imagine that my grandmother birthed this burka from her own stomach—fabric dousing her womb in darkness, coming out as flesh. Shaped like a fist. In Tamil, wound and body share the same word. Meaning that the body is only another way to hurt. Meaning that I am a scab that is not capable of healing. Swollen thighs. Mouth purple at the edges. I confess: I want this burka to swallow me like a river. Drench me in salve until I’m sputtering. Bandage this wound. If this burka is another body, it is a better one. My grandmother whispers that my body is too sacred to remove the burka. I mistake the word sacred for scared. My body is not the altar, only the meat that has been placed on it, sacrificed in all the wrong ways. I will drape this fabric over me like a corpse, hide inside it as a remedy.
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.