A.D. Lauren-Abunassar

Things Beneath the Sky
— after John Ashbery’s Syringa

what gray knows of beauty
small things lost in tight
rivers—my jars all have uses

this light is less practical
than that. i remember the hospital.
though these wings are no—

no. too easy. things beneath the sky:
their gladness? i call easy, too easy, too wrong.
i throw the thick rules down:

apple. and naked. mother unskinning
her shoulder from my shoulder. midnight.
quiet as an errant prayer. both of us

touched once. i am mostly apart of my keeping—
eurydice, maybe, made a choice.
i have punished my blue jays

also. i have held close my wildness
and turned it against those. with
enough twisting, leaves

at the pane turn into a locust.
as in: plague of. with enough
urging my throat spits up seeds.

not for nothing,
they won’t grow ‘til morning.
their fruit will bite sharp as

as an answer. where they asked
did he touch you? what gray
knows of beauty: those bookends.

where the river goes down in its
searching. where i swim in the
answers of lowness.

things beneath the sky roar back
in their land thrall. i will learn
to root my mark in it.




he takes her to the basement
where he keeps the basket
of apples, golden,
licks his fingers and her
buttons. she stares at the point
in the ceiling where the wall joins it and
runs into an ocean; whore, she thinks,
is a word synonymous with daughters who
are taken in the crawl spaces, knowing their
mothers can hear them crying softly for
all the things we lose to the night time
my mother, she thinks, is there beyond that plaster,
asleep with her husband's ghost; she learns
this is what love looks like: a ten
p.m. bedtime silhouette
of empty hallways. he pulls
her down, the notches of her spine
pressed against her mother's ceramic molds
the floor smells like something lost
to a car ashtray, melted through the
window's relayed heat. be kind, she
whispers to his clavicle, don't be the ghost
i'm left with. this is how we cure our loneliness -
treat it kindly, this knee in your calloused palm
mother, she thinks, how i wish i could have
discussed what living ghosts look like, since
you are so well acquainted with the dead . she
closes her eyes, is gone in a moment,
feels bouldered-weights pressing on her eyes
clear-shaped as the ring her mother wears:
amber. Perfect. Sleep seeds through and thigh bruised
from where he tried to wrap his hands the
whole way around her to hold her—how often
it is that holding turns into marking, marking turns into
a mark that doesn’t pucker pink or leave.
Her mother calls her whore on the way to church.



A.D. Lauren-Abunassar is an Arab-American writer who resides in Iowa City. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Moth, Zone 3, Spires, Comstock Review, Cincinnati Review, Projector, Cathexis, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2017 Zone 3 Annual Poetry award, an Academy of American Poets award honorable mention, and was a 2017 fellow at the Bucknell Seminar for Young Poets. She was a nominee for the 2018 Best New Poets Anthology. She is currently pursuing her MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.