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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Guenette

Why I Love This Poem: Sarah Ghazal Ali's "February Augury"



The Adroit Journal dropped its latest issue today. The first poem, by a poet I've not read before, Sarah Ghazal Ali, gave me the feels.


It's called "February Augury," and while the poem totally delivers on that foreboding title, the first lines astound and delight:


"Yulan magnolias blossom first / as birds..."


(They really do! Check out the above image!)


I love how quickly Ms. Ali moves that image to a "fist" that "could harm me," to achieve a velocity, like I'm on a thrill ride through a world where things transform into other and other things--SNAP!--like that.


Metamorphosis!


That blossom that blossoms a bird that becomes a potential source of harm flies back to the trees, "the known / homes of jinn" because trees are haunted, just go look at one, which is to say there's an open-mindedness / freedom in this poem that seems to catch the narrator by surprise:


"...Believe me / I barely believe / the heralds I've seen..."


Yup! That ever-changing outside world illumines an inner one, the narrator confessing "...if I stare / a beat too long, my face refracting / others, foremothers, / my beloved's hands rising / in supplication under winter / rain..."


That final image humbles, the blossom-bird replaced by an actual, "...dead sparrow by the door / bent like a comma-- / as if asking him / to pause, or telling me / to wait..."


The poem refuses to shut itself in with an epiphany, it opens instead, so we can imagine in the weight of that final "wait" the inevitable rise and fall of more transformations, more possibilities. I'm saying this poem is like the best kind of conversation, one that goes on after we're gone.

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