I can almost touch her
cheek in this London train that
jostles us together, as time
jostles back and forth
between us on her phone, the videos
she plays as if only she
can see them. Here
is a nightclub, here a pool,
a cluster of girls in a mosque’s
courtyard, now they’re clutching
each other, screaming
as a jeep heaves them
across the desert’s dunes.
The girl’s cheek is warm,
exposed. Her headscarf has come
loose, and I can almost see
each gold link in her swaying
necklace. The girls are falling
together, laughing. She taps them away
and her whole hand fills
with a man’s torso: black skin,
black hair, his wide grin
at the screen pointed towards him.
Go back, I want to tell her,
as lights flare in her palm,
and now I taste the sweet
slick spill of drinks, the ache
of sweat as the whole world throbs
up through my feet. Go back.
Here is a boyfriend, there
a brother, a girlfriend, cousins,
father, mother. Someone’s
dancing in a darkened corner.
Now she’s tying up
a sister’s hair, the sun sinking
into the ocean’s purples. A scarf flaps
across my face. There’s a woman
beckoning me to stand
upon a square of carpet, moonlight
splashing over a landing. Go back.
The baby is sleeping. Now
it’s awake. Stop, I want to tell
her, as another young man climbs
towards us from the pool.
I can almost taste
his sunbaked knee, the waxy drip
of water in his curls.
He is so beautiful. But so
is the desert in which
two camels emerge, a girl
on the back of each, the sands
beneath them brown and pink.
The air fills with the acrid scent
of gas. Go back. More people
are already arriving:
friends, strangers. I can’t
remember. Only that I worried
I would be left, and so rushed
to meet them. Far off,
a string of yellow: city lights
or car lights, it doesn’t matter. Only
that all these people move there
together, and I am now
among them. I am carried
to this place. The lights
there are warm and distant.
Only the dark now
winks between us.

Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, a memoir, and four books of poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Animal Eye, was a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Balcones Prize and winner of the UNT Rilke Prize. Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, an NEA Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award and a Fulbright Fellowship, Rekdal’s poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, in two editions of the Best American Poetry series and on National Public Radio. Her next book of poems, Imaginary Vessels, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in Autumn 2016.