The Foil

The last time I saw my mother was ten years ago,
three years after I had sworn to never lay eyes
on her again. When I entered the house, she lay
on a couch, her feet crossed, shaking one foot.
Her red lipstick painted the orange cigarette butt
in her mouth. I breathed each smoke ring she blew
in my face, the same rings I inhaled when I lived
inside of her, the same loops that haloed me and cascaded
down to encircle my throat like a rope when I was four.

Now you smoke too?

She asked when I pulled the silver Kent
pack from my purse, a gesture of power.
I am not her detainee this time. Nicotine
sagged in my lungs, and I blew the smoke
in the air. Gray streaks like our silence
climbed the walls and rested above our heads.
We infused the room with clouds.

Yalda Al-Ani is a writer from Iraq. She holds a B.A. in English and a minor in creative writing from William and Mary. She completed an honors thesis in creative writing, where her poetry collection explores the concept of home through her own experiences with familial abuse and war. At William and Mary, she placed first at The Goronwy Owen Prize in Poetry, first in the Glenwood Clark Prize in fiction, and second in The Academy of American Poets Eva Burch Prize. Al-Ani is currently applying to MFA programs in creative writing.

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