after Kaveh Akbar

my mother refused an epidural so I’d
never mispronounce anything. we drove

past the mountains once &
the radio trembled like it had been kissed

by static or God. I’m a sharkish girl
with a rude mouth, new molars jagged

as cliffs. me & dad sit in the dip
of the Vandross & he tells me about his

city like it doesn’t exist or like its
neighboring ocean is unemployed. says

shit like in Trablos morning is on everything
& I become an abundance in a thin seat,

asking the catechism teacher do
soldiers go to heaven? if someone

breaks into my house looking for bread
& I panic & bonk them with my skillet

which one of us gets punished. who
gets punished? the hospital I was born in

was called Zion. we drive past the mountains
I’m wearing striped shorts & flames

cling to the bluffs like an expensive dress.
I am four. maybe California’s my true country.

maybe her fires. I pull a bag of tinted negatives
from my ribs. I was named after water.

Maya Salameh