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Story Publication logo April 6, 2021

Forty-One Surah Yaseens

Author:
Two doctors wearing protective gear, taken from the cover of If God Is a Virus by Seema Yasmin
English

Based on original reporting from West Africa and the United States, and the poet’s experiences as a...

Tongues are tourniquets;
Qur’an is cautery.

In this prayer circle,
we five women sway,

staunch the flow
of three generations of bleeding.

One: The plane didn’t make it to Heathrow we sank in the North Sea I drank my
way out of the ocean and carried bloated fish on my back and two babies in my
belly gutted those sour fish our first foreign supper tasted of mercury

Two: I said I do not want to leave my village I dug my hands into the earth my
fingers sprouted roots I spat and I spat and I watered those roots and they anchored me to my land but my children did not hold on tight and they flew away
to a place I cannot say its name

Three: I stitched baby clothes in a green factory that played Surah Yaseen on a loop
through a Tannoy I stabbed that cloth where a baby’s fat belly would gurgle slid it
through the blade of my industrial machine until I went deaf from the roar of the
engines and that is how I did not hear the sirens

Four: I made poison out of red bugs made the antidote too sold one to husbands
one to wives and that is how I made so much money to be called dangerous and
the soldiers came one night said I did not have the right eyes took all my money I
drank all the poison then kissed my babies on their wet mouths

Five: The ship sailed past Amreeka up up up north it kept going so I hurled my
braid out of the ship anchored my head to an iron statue and my children they
climbed my braid to Amreeka and that is how we survived

They do not say this,
not with their mouths,

because tongues are tourniquets.
Qur’an is cautery.

In this prayer circle we
women sway and pray silently,

for long hair and poison,
for all of the things that help us survive.

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