Marilee Goad


The way the smoke curled round my tongue, bloomed ghosts
through my nostrils, it shouldn’t have me happy and yet I was
elated to taste the warm apple steeping in my mouth: cigarettes
were awful, but hookah was a gift of the gods, the end to nights
full of puffy warm bread dipped in hummus, tahini and chickpeas
match made in heaven, the baklava dripping sweet syrup down
your chin, shards of phyllo sticking to your fingers: if I could
pinch the memory between my two fingers and whiff its magic
somehow into my present day doldrums, would I still dream
of hot coffee and cardamom scalding my tongue, or taste
the real thing, fresh and steaming? Leah died years ago and
still grief lopped off my bridge to her house, aunts seeing me
and wailing their bitter hymns, curse the evil eye and stay away:
I whisper prayers to her ghost to stay alive and still yearn for
hot summer nights, threading smoke between us, stolen kisses
secrets; we kept saying we were friends though we were not
only friends, and every night I burn incense and chant blessings
for her soul, wanting the sting of hookah, preventing myself
from sucking its memories of her dry, keeping her deathless.


Marilee Goad attended the University of Chicago and has work forthcoming or published in OUT/CAST and Georgetown University School of Medicine’s Scope arts magazine for medical students.