If nothing else, at least this clemency: two whorls
in each face, round pistils burrowed & searching.
Tariq asks what I saw in my sleep. I weave a sweet

lie about my mother’s pomegranates, the kitchen
tiles we bloodied digging for the seed in each
rumored to belong to a mirror tree in paradise.

The truth: a girl with melting eyes
who holds my gaze all night, vitreous rivers
gushing down our faces until one of us wakes.

There is no unseeing it. The whites thick
& clotted, erupting into weeds where they fall
by my feet. My people don’t share what darkness

we’ve seen—fear always a message from the devil.
Tariq says true dreams reveal themselves at the first
inhale of sunrise. How to hold wide my eyes

for the ineluctable light? On a disappeared horizon
a bush continues to burn, a lilied cervix swarms green,
& Jacob is still sightless, forty years lost to grief.

Clouds drone above me, my two ordinary
eyes sealed in sleep. Every vision is redolent & terrible.
Every temporal sight either a miracle or a mistake.

Artist’s Statement
This is the title poem for my manuscript-in-progress of the same name. Much of my recent work obsessively circles visions, signs, omens, and the gaze—who looks at whom? What do we do with what is witnessed? “Theophanies” began with a bad dream, which Muslims largely believe isn’t meant to be shared. Unable to speak it aloud, I turned to the page and let my mind draw what resonances it willed.

Sarah Ghazal Ali is a Pakistani poet with roots in California. She is currently an MFA candidate and Juniper Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she also teaches composition and creative writing. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Frontier Poetry, Memorious, Tinderbox, Waxwing, and others. Find her at, on Twitter (@caesarah_), and Instagram (@caesarah).