The Mistresses

from Ten Women

Jumana Mustafa

Who told you about The Mistresses?

We are secret nightguards.

Vaguely happy with their lot,
Men smile their hidden smiles.

(Dumb like a plague.
Cursed like a plague.
Deferred like a plague.)

One kiss means exile. Repercussion
After repercussion in the deference of our lips.
Our breasts terrify.
Someone forgot to barcode our bodies.

What is forgotten reappears—

A sleeping coathair awakes.
Our perfume—we call it ORPHAN—
Clings like a nick.
And yet…
We are a proof that is deniable.

*

Who told you about The Mistresses?

Whenever there is a whisper
There is fire in the tongue.

‘Pssst…Mistresses, Mistresses

Banished incense.
Planned coincidence.
And yet…
There is a woman behind it all.

Weary? Need an itch to scratch?
We can crumple the marriage bed.

*

Who told you about The Mistresses?

Though we don’t count wall shadows,
Or serve miserable breakfasts,

(We don’t eat.
We don’t count.
We know nothing of misery.)

In our handbags there’s a spare smile—
It can be used as backup for the ignobility of narration.

From families and suburban crumbs
We fell.
No one swept us up.

The devil licked us on the floor *
And we were born.

(* Note: In Arabic culture to prevent children from taking dirty food from the floor, parents tell them that when it falls to the ground the devil will lick it.)

Translated from the Arabic by the author and James Byrne.

 

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