13:2: “Inheritance, Far from the Centre of the World”, by Sara Saab

13:2: “Inheritance, Far from the Centre of the World”, by Sara Saab

In time we come to claim our magic —

My grandmother: a jasmine tree and spruce of fig,
one confined to an embankment and fragrant,
the other uprooting the courtyard
in a demolitions move of decades, a muscleman streaming sweat,
beading a concentrate of nectar not saline,
gorgeous and pregnant fruit,
a bruise upon the heart, sculpted by the patient tug of ventricles.

The fig tree was a sort of magic and the jasmine something else,
An attack of beauty,
an aerosol battery to widen pupils bathed in tears,
a spritz of whimsy pleasing to the abhorrers of magic,
And the two trees together my grandmother’s brew,
her witch’s tisane,
unbearable twinned, so that the courtyard of poured cement
its scars of the gouging war,
its rusting vehicle parts, its overflow of cats,
all of it,
pulled gravity to centre upon it
some seconds every year
(raising a fete among the unnoticed).

My mother’s sort of magic cut canine and urgent,
Soft ingredients clapping like steel.
A fortified heart impervious to bruising,
vibrating dangerously
coiled in frequencies carried from afar.
She walked us through our futures
when cobblestones were still hillocks to
new-sprouted feet
and pitched her webbing in the echo-chamber of
a daughter, a pair of sons:

She harvested solar flare membranes
suspended round a blaze of yolk,
the young, later, unflung from the nest.
An enchantment woven across continents, flight paths,
A pause to wrap bracelets of warding around six
wrists, charms hanging on delicate chicken-bone hands,
holding within the futures we would craft —
     Protest signs. Lovers’ faces. Keys to houses.
     The short days of winter, Snowboots dragging through slush.

My mother knew what we were before we were dreams.

In waterlogged Januaries and coal-fire Februaries
I hunt.

Where discarded umbrellas jut, stabbed into soil
I unplug the Earth, point a flashlight in.
Beneath the sill of my apartment window an autumn leaf
has clung for months:
I train binoculars on it, note
star-shaped droppings of the supernatural
collecting along a browned midrib.
My nostrils flare wide to
the slow-death perfume of winter;
Enchantment may sizzle beneath seasonal musks.

My magic trails from a black cab’s exhaust,
unclaimed, or sits
tangled in the twig bowl of a disused
crow’s nest,
in the courtyard
of a housing estate —

Here, now, I can’t press words around it. The ways
I knew to wave a wand are lost to the foam trails
of dreamt beaches

One day soon, I think,
jasmine sprigs will burst from my backbone,
I’ll presage the children I’ll bear,
Winter will retreat in shambles beneath the sun.
I’ll wake up potent, humming,
Hair will cling to the tips of my ears
held fast by static.

When she’s not scheming to rule the world with an army of modified metro-station mice, Sara dabbles in software in London and — embarrassingly — aches too much in the heart when confronted with rock anthems or perfect sentences. Her poems have appeared in Apex Magazine, Goblin Fruit, and Stone Telling, and her fiction in Fantasy Magazine and Electric Velocipede. She says:

I wrote this poem at a nearly geological pace, thinking, the whole while, of my maternal line. My day-to-day life in leafy, rainy North London is at a complete remove from what my mother’s daily experience would have been like at my age as an emigrant with two young children. Jump back to the life my grandmother led in a mountain suburb of Beirut during the civil war, and the differences are just extraordinary. But ‘Inheritance..’ is about the common voltage that powers our magic, as different as our lives might be. The poem is also about the complete weirdness of being an adult — the fact that you can walk like a grown-up, and quack like a grown-up, and get stressed and tired and burnt out like a grown-up, but still feel like a kid in your head.

Photograph of hoarfrost in Niedersachsen, Germany, by Daniel Schwen, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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