Still Life with Empire

An hourglass tipped on its side, crimson sand still
seeping, partially concealing Ecclesiastes beneath:

Rainrainracome andRainraibut the earthRainraiforever

Election livestream limning the small
room, dark but for the blue eye

snaring light above the bed. Barely visible
is a woman. A person of interest

who could harbor love for an enemy of the state.
Hair clipped back, perfumed with oud

by Tom Ford. Her phone, facedown, chirps
an alert from the unblinking pupil on the front door.

A warm body walking has been sensed read scanned
captured delivered. Concealed from sight the tattoo

on her inner thigh, a verse from Iqbal in Urdu script marks her
privately impure, unable to ablute and thereafter pray.

On the nightstand, a leaflet announcing a gallery opening,
a scaled rectangle on page three reproducing GTMO art.

Her phone, again— okay, NSA, 
she thinks or says, okay, and checks.

Someone or no one gazes back at her.
Someone so no one has died, was headlined but not

spared by her thumb’s upward caress. There
is nothing new under the sun. Unprecedented

this election, Unthinkable, even. Years ago,
a detainee’s hands

frescoing the sea upon a tarp barring sight of it.
The hourglass denied its right to track

time. The eye tires. Somewhere,
the sun rises. Somewhere, the sun sets.

Sarah Ghazal Ali is the author of Theophanies (Alice James Books, 2024), selected as the Editors’ Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award. An incoming Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University, she currently serves as editor for Palette Poetry. Find her at sarahgali.com