Sarah Ghazal Ali


The day I first suspect she will try to die
I push a pin through the throat of a tulip.

Violet-eyed, seeping—it accedes to me,
and soon it will straighten its stem.

My voice I have come to consider
ornamental—this desire to furnish a room with its toll.

I drain the water each day
but still the vase clouds. Reliable,

how a cut bloom molders.
How a bell isn’t a bell until struck.

One painting in a gallery full of others
is nothing noteworthy.

But one painting hanging above a bed—
the human eye must scan to see

what it sees. It cannot capture
as a camera does, its subject, whole.

So it roves the scene,
and focuses on what is framed,

lilies against a dark cloth,
stigma curving away from whatever does

or doesn’t happen below.

Sarah Ghazal Ali is the author of Theophanies, selected as the Editors' Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award, and forthcoming with Alice James Books in January 2024. A 2022 Djanikian Scholar, her poems appear in POETRY, American Poetry Review, Pleiades, the Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is currently the editor of Palette Poetry and a Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University. Learn more at