“Brentwood, April 3rd” by Jasmine Khaliq

Jasmine Khaliq


what is this, pulling me back the other way
to strip malls, highways, and treetops?
—Caroline Polachek, “Parachute”

for my twenty-fifth birthday I’d like to skydive
off vasco road they take people up
my dad did this once before I was
ever born; the hill opened up
his right knee. my mom watched, pregnant with me,
still unnamed, unsexed, surely the size of recognizable fruit, 
surely recognizable fruit, every possibility. I’ll never do 
that again, he says, but I haven’t gone, I want to go
skydiving; I think I would jump; I want to know california that way,
unnaturally; I want to rattle like shucked corn inside myself;
I want to see what my dad must have seen—after this,
he bought a house in the country; he bought my sister and I a childhood
drawing on our wrists with sap from gerbera daisies,
or that’s what I remember—I want to see all of it at once—
the last two decades mount diablo a movie theater new lots new lawns
two golf clubs on the other side of town—I went to high school
there my dad bought me a childhood here my sister and I,
but he never took us cherry picking. every spring
I fell in love with people who could never understand me,
and they’re reappearing in my dreams.
I’m still in love; we’re at any one of our old houses.
I used to drive to get you. dark blue chrysler with no a/c
in the worst of our summers.
those roads to your house I drive in my sleep.
o’hara, fairview, minnesota, lone tree. I liked to watch
you drive me. I still would. your jaw.
what was that alchemy? only proximity?
to write sometimes I put on lipstick, jewelry, vivaldi.
today: slow-motion videos of parachutes deploying:
birds of paradise above us, color by color peeling. I want it—
east bay rushing up toward me, unnaturally; those roads
I took; tense walks along deer creek. I wanted to disappear
here so many times. barely april and it’s hot enough to change
how the air smells—more animal,
more alive. would you have imagined me
making it to twenty-five? smaller in the sky than any recognizable fruit,
poppy blooming overhead, able finally to see these strip malls,
highways, our childhoods, endless, green, 
every line—parallel, intersecting.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Jasmine Khaliq: “During the pandemic, I moved back to my hometown. By April 2021, I knew I was moving away again by July to enter my PhD program at University of Utah, and that I was moving for good, away from my family and the place of my childhood. I wrote every day in April in an effort to preserve my time there, both present and past. That overlapping sense of time I felt being there, and the inability to capture or see everything, despite my best efforts, came out in this poem on April 3rd (while I listened to Caroline Polachek on repeat). Poetry for me is always about this—trying to understand the relationships between the self and others, past selves, place, language itself—all of it, an alchemy.” (web)

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