Pregnant with Fire

Photo credit: Alexander Solomon

This poem was originally performed at The Prophet’s “Tongues of Fire” spoken word event. 

By Narges Shafeghati

I was pregnant with fire

that you agreed to extinguish

On your distant mind

a hall filled with people

_____whose memory haunts us until we sanctify them,

_____wrap them in aluminum foil and light them afire

but only between 4.33 and 4.51

I heard tradition is peer pressure from dead people

Yet I cherished where you were uncertain

_____and still are

 

I look for fire since that day in every toddler’s face

wondering…pouring my homeless love into its eyes…

young, dumb, not ready, too foolish to deserve this love

so we decided to let it go, “revisit this” in your words

_____whenever you’re ready, I’ll be there, you said

without even keeping a picture of it

not even the black and white one

 

I paid for

you silencing my womb

_____but thank you for holding my hand

_____while I nursed the blood-hungry machine

after repeating my question twice

you awkwardly translated to the doctor

who tried to circumvent

maybe because she was a good doctor – trying to protect me

or maybe because she had to get to 20 other patients before the end

_____of the day to finally go take care of her own family

 

Not sure to this day – with all that was left unanswered

not because I was running away, but because I

was running toward the life we’d build together

living (in) the question, embracing the question…

 

I am realizing how much of my English I learned from you

like those beautifully ordinary words like embracing 

Where I heard your voice humming quietly

between the guitar strings into the 6-hours ahead night

 

There now is chatter of time and space for processing, fully grieving

How do I grieve fully, do anything fully, how am I fully, when a part of me is lost?

How do I give words to my anger in English?! How do I say trauma? or grief support group?

How do I complain when there is no one on the other end of the line

where were the words when I needed to cry out in lament?

_____I never learned how to curse or yell or shout or scream or say fuck you…without 

_____your beautiful name into the void, I know the words for what, not the words for how…

 

Tongue of fire, what will soothe your burns, what will calm your flames?

I will gulp the water out of the mikveh

the water Zeynab’s family was denied

the water my father Yahya poured

over the Menschensohn, son of man, Ben Adam

you will see…

 

_____Remember when we had a lifetime?

It was the only reassurance

that ever convinced me to go to sleep,

to leave your eyes, just for the night

We didn’t snuggle on this couch nearly enough, not even close

 

Oh for lying there once again before darkness with yesteryou…as one

 

I walk these streets and think of all your explicit promises and implicit lies,

I walk and sing and dance with your inner child’s body language.

 

I go through what I will tell my father when I walk him through these streets

_____look, this is where ….and I will catch and swallow your name

_____and instead roll out a blanket of Iove with a convincing smile

—the one with narrow reassuring eyes, the one I could always tell in your face

from the other ones you give people when you raise your voice in order

to convince yourself first…you never fooled me

And I never fool baba. So in those moments, he will hold me tight

and I will look forward to seeing the pride in place of the pity in his rub

and the smile in the downward corners of his lips at graduation

instead of the pain in his eyes you left rejecting me…

only then I remember he was rejected too, by you, yours, your nations, your savages in charge

_____I promise you to graduate with my head held high, to see that 

_____none of mine are there to celebrate with me

How much shame can one hold contained in heartbreak


Narges Shafeghati is a poet, pluralist, and dreamer. An Iranian-German daughter of artists and change-makers-at-heart, she enjoyed a Muslim upbringing, Catholic education, and has since been more deeply pursuing Jewish practice. She holds a B.A. in Expressive Arts in Social Transformation from Medical School Hamburg. As a theologian and counselor in training she currently studies the intersection of faith, spiritual practice, arts, and activism at Boston University, Harvard, and Hebrew College. She keeps a plant-based home and leads a trilingual, Abrahamic-pluralist life.

 

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