Winning Poem in the Shahid Ali Ghazal Contest

Margo Berdeshevsky


     The handprints in ancient cave art were left by women —National Geographic

If the new animal voice cries for my empty bed, hear me.
If a wide red wing climbing my cotton gown stills me, unwed—hear me.

If wars in blued tongues of the night-scarved crows admit
what our mothers pretend to forget — will you hear me?

When wild horsemen, sketched beast-men, drawn by girls afraid
to tell secrets to their mothers, filled caves, unsaid — did you hear me?

Secrets spread in menstrual reds on a cave’s inner walls
Did the hills listen? Dead, did you hear me?

My bed of old bloods has slept through dreams, and
revenants. One sky’s thickened milk fills silence—hear me

silk-tongued as that hour ahead of our last summers—
leaves handprints—tears the riddles open, plead hear me.

If the smallest hands, if the last birds, if one unborn poem spills
just a little sky, we were not killed. Were born. Mother, bird, Ahmed, hear me—