fajr (one)
Dew or the wetness on a man’s cheek. Find me a distinction.
Both descend at night,
leave by morning.
I want to believe in so much more than this. I want to say we are more than our geographies of loss
and believe it. Help me believe it.

zuhr (two)
What will you write about when there is no longer refugee
no longer exile
no longer this dress of loose skin
Wait for it, that dreamtime. Our backs straining into loaded cross-bows,
in the meantime.
I think I’ll write about the rain making an industrial disaster
out of your neat face
and that time I used your toothbrush to fix my baby hairs in the sink
and never told you.

asr (three)
Trust is a vowel sound away from power.
Trust is willing a boat to shores
Power is not having to. Even our language mocks us.

maghrib (four)
Lately, he cries in newsreels. Sometimes he calls it inspiration.
You are too milk-fed, too hungry
for a story that isn’t yours. The generation birthed from a roll of dice
carving poetry out of
a blood brother’s rib.
Cain translating for Abel,
a digital age away.

isha’ (five)
Morning papers say debris has washed up on coastline,
and I do not know if they mean plastic or flesh.
Some of us blur these lines.
We, who live outside of language,
inside the hum of our nightly prayers,
everything we are afraid of has already happened. Is already happening.
We who can tell you all the ways
land imprints on a body, on a memory.
the sea has always swallowed us,
boats have always failed us,
land has always meant checkpoints and queuing and contributing and contributingand contributing
until the pillar-box red gloss of documentation
lends us a humanity our fathers never had.
Shouldn’t we be grateful, brother?
At least, for this.



Post image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr

Portrait - MehriMomtaza Mehri is a biomedical scientist and poet who remains unsure which world came first. Her work engages with inheritance/ psychosomatics/ugliness/urban zoos. She has been active in the zine/journal underworld for some time, featuring and forthcoming in Diaspora Drama, Hard Food, Heat, Bint Meen, Puerto Del Sol, Elswhere and other delights. Anthologised in Podium Poets as part of the London Laureates longlist, her debut collection will be published in 2016. As a community worker and part-time translator, she specialises in burning incense and bridges.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.



    […] Trust is willing a boat to shores/ Power is not having to. Even our language mocks us” (‘New World Hymn’). Language is political, rigged with invisible power dynamics and the shadow of colonialism, but […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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