Leila Chatti


​Turning in your cavern
like a pint-sized spelunker,
I learned to swim. From him
I came, his milky tadpole,
and in you I waited to receive
myself, a patient bead.
I like to remember
how I was made deliberately,
how there was a time
when I was at once two
separate living things
and also not a whole life,
a nothing. Before
it was mine, my body
was your body, an appendage,
a polyp. When did I form
my spine knobbed like a taut string
of pearls, your namesake?
When did my heart unfurl
the tendrils of my veins
and carry through them
first my lifeblood?
When did I become
a self? Some days,
there is a phantom pain.
I read these poems with your mouth.

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American dual citizen. She received her MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University, where she was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize. First place winner of Southword Journal’s Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Prize and second place winner of Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Contest, her work appears in publications such as Best New Poets 2015, North American Review, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Nimrod.