This is what my mother taught me
to scent a grave. As a child,
I never knew these sticks as incense.
She planted at least twenty
in a rectangle along
her mother and brother’s headstones.
That musk everywhere in Mecca.
Everyone wanted to smell like the Prophet,
rosewater and ‘Ud and camphor.
My father kept fifty or so tiny vials
of Saudi Arabian perfume the shine
of canary yellow diamonds
in his medicine cabinets, in drawers. I found
his favorite after he died. Stole it
from my siblings, keep it hidden inside
a large manila envelope. Only take it out
when I want to invoke
his white kufi hat. My mother says agarbathee
is so strong, the dead can smell it
from their graves. The angels are pleased.

Today, I roll it in my hands, onto my neck.
I can barely smell my father’s
tweed jackets, his sweat mixed with the familiar
cloud from bazaars. This heady ink,
this unnamed bottle.
I offer it back to him.

Maryam Ghafoor

Maryam Ghafoor is a queer Muslim Pakistani-American poet from Illinois. Her work has been published in Barnstorm Literary Journal, Foundry, and American Poetry Review. Her poems are forthcoming in Peatsmoke, SOFTBLOW, Vassar Review, The South Carolina Review, and Mid-American Review. You can follow her on Instagram.