Two Poems

78 Mountgrove Road

My only friend was the red fox that June. Waiting at the slanted table by the window, I wanted the light to stay, and wanted it to go. By day I blackened the cake and thrust it whole into the trash. I painted my lips red and foraged Dina’s jewelry for stones to decorate my face, which was growing strange. When we were young we looked nothing alike; now my face was hers. Detached curls convened in corners every time I looked away. I scoured the floor again, and napped longer than I needed. The sheets were always damp when I left them. For weeks no one else touched me. Dina and I were taking care of a baby in one dream; when it got so hungry it turned green, we walked to Clissold Park, and left it to a small herd of fallow deer. I bought minced meat from the Algerian butcher, froze it, and made pasta. I watered Dina’s plants—even the ones I couldn’t reach. When I went to the park I watched children play tennis, beetles mine deep deadwood cavities, and almost never spotted the deer. I never stayed very long. Tomorrow hung like a dagger in the sky. After measuring the burnt sugar that lined my nails, I’d stagger back to the window and wait—small hairs breeding around my lips. I only ever saw the fox when the light left—I know that means there’s no way it was red. But the truth is, in our childhood, I looked out at the Mediterranean one night, and it was as turquoise as it had been by day.

78 Mountgrove Road

My only friend was the red fox that June. At every hour I smelled of sleep. When we were young, Dina would beg to share my bed, but I almost always said not tonight. I wanted myself too much. Now I was alone in hers. When the light left, I consumed myself thinking of the man with brass doorknobs for shoulders, of the woman whose name meant the scent of the sun. For weeks no one else touched me. Until my fingers grew indifferent—as if feeding something that wasn’t hungry. I used the light to tweeze and shave even the spots that don’t grow hair. Loneliness is being a newborn again. In one dream, a baby that was either Dina’s or mine arrived palm-sized and pale, his eyes as clear as water. Not knowing what else to do, we took turns nursing it; our breasts as dry as granite. On her birthday, I baked Dina a two-layer vanilla cake, which I burnt, and returned to the window to surveil the street. I had no hand in it; some nights I watched nothing’s shadow and heard nothing call. It is true that a fox will hunt and sleep alone, but it is also true that once, not too far from here, a baby fox caught in a snare for two weeks survived because its mother brought it food every night. The fox screamed when she took too long to come.

Sara Elkamel is a poet and journalist living between Cairo and NYC. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Yale Review, MQR, Four Way Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Adroit Journal, Poet Lore, Poetry London, Best New Poets 2020, Best of the Net 2020, among others. She is the author of the chapbook “Field of No Justice” (African Poetry Book Fund & Akashic Books, 2021).