Mouth Noises & The Forest, Not the Trees

by Aïcha Martine

[Mouth Noises]

When they tore the thorn from Karaba’s back,
they saw her agony as fleeting but I knew her

wail for what it was. There was no victory in
her taming, no victory in her joining in the

villagers’ chatter. Second-fiddle wildcard, I never
stomached the mouth noises; somehow I feel I

grew up wrong, oblivious to the hearing of the
Call that gathered everyone together, made them

stretch out their hands. People keep thanking me for
being here, disaccustomed as they are from the notion,

and I self-flagellate (why didn’t you just do the
niceness you were on the verge of doing? halt when

you walked out the door? risk loving one more time?)
Call me Circe making out of pigs men, and lamenting

her efficacy. I am distressed by the word Community
because neath its velveteen embrace is a frequency

attuned only to a few ears. I hear how the word has
failed others, how it has been tool, firing squad

and appraiser for those who didn’t belong. How it
has meant itself and also its reverse. How it

has gated around and against: an alibi, a hypocrisy,
a platitude. My body, again a scapegrace, has not found

itself greeted into the taut spaces the word
chisels out. How does anyone own anything, in this

day and age? How does anyone own and owe oneself, if
even the seawater throws you out, spouting language you

don’t yet understand? Telling you come back when you
are ready for the pinwheeling and the cherries

If even your grandmothers and their countries say no,
wayward child, where have you been?
If even your

Matthews say we had three months but you came back
too late?
And shattered swallowed mirrors tut-tut still don’t

get why you’re doing this?
and the cults you join
with those like you, yearning to whittle away, and

the ghosts who don’t recognize you yet, and the past and
future selves who go yes, I’m going to have a great

life and you ain’t there yet
, and pipers and echo-chambers
and essence, fluorescence — they tell what no one

wants to hear. In another century they’d do me like Tituba
and the like. In another century they’d probably say

look at that bitch, burn that witch and with her all her
joyless fancies. She doesn’t know that a good life

is with people, and that a crook, or a crocodile
— no, a goddess’ temper will sinksinksink her to her seabed.


[The Forest, Not the Trees]

I am prowling for inspiration again
Camels can go weeks without eating
I prefer the olm’s tenacity (ten years!)
One is sad because I remind her of sadness

Camels can go weeks without eating
One says get better: I throw that up with the rest
One is sad because I remind her of sadness
I don’t know if this is true but also, it is true

One says get better: vomit that supplication with the rest
Oyster, I am the world, this is just another alchemy
I don’t know if this is true but also, it is true
One year off your life for the body you want

Oyster, I am the world and this is just another alchemy
Brittle bones, overt disgrace for the body you want
One year off your life for the body you want
Neither fish nor fowl. I am hungry: am I smiling?


[Aïcha Martine is a trilingual and multicultural writer, musician and artist, and might have been a kraken in a past life. She’s an Editor at Reckoning, co-EIC/Producer/Creative Director of The Nasiona, and has been nominated for Best of the NetThe Best Small Fictions and The Pushcart Prize. Her collection AT SEA, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize, is forthcoming with CLASH BOOKS. Her second collection BURN THE WITCH is coming soon with Finishing Line Press. Follow her work @Maelllstrom/]