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g as in god

for Ahmed Al-Jumaili


the woman announced

“please proceed to gate g, as in god.”

g as in 99 divided by 11

then re-imagined

as in the buildings de-imagined,

turned upside down

and shaken out one September,

which we call the same as

the American flag

which we call freedom

which is the number we call

when we want god

to appear as an ambulance


which is the number that was called

21 days after Ahmed Al-Jumaili

boarded a plane through gate g

(fingers stretched toward

that same promise)

because his blood was coloring

a blooming peony on the snow

(a pomegranate shot through,

exploding house of jewel)

red as a wet 9, red as a siren

red as stripes on a flag, red as hell.


after I read about the death

of Ahmed Al-Jumaili

I dreamt of a gate and plane


a man and his wife walking toward it

with every dream balled up in their fists

and their shoes filling with blood.


interpretation of dreams

when you dream of someone trying to shoot you, it can mean there is a filmy window between your ribs that must be shattered by cold air.

I wake up with my neck tensed and aflame, as if I had been straining in my sleep to see through the dusty glass, its hairline fractures.


when I was a child we had a cellar that smelled of deep earth.
I liked to run my hands over the stony walls, feeling safe.


when running, I sometimes fear the way I cannot see the end of the road as it
curves over the ground’s open palm

I run faster until darkness
until I feel slightly nauseous
until my surest sense is the sound
of my shoes pushing gravel around.


but when you dream of running with a bullet trailing you
it can mean you are chasing your tail

that you’re just a lonely yard dog
with a bad sense of sight.

Irène Mathieu is a writer and pediatrician in Philadelphia. She is the 2016 winner of the Bob Kaufman Poetry Prize and author of the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press & studio, 2014) and orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, forthcoming). Her poetry, prose, and photography can be found in The Caribbean Writer, The Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), Diverse Voices Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, Jet Fuel Review, Lime Hawk, and elsewhere. Irène has been a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Callaloo fellow, and a Fulbright scholar. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter.

Photo ©Richard Beban


July 13, 2016