The Poetry of Aïcha Martine Thiam

Aïcha Martine Thiam

the mistress of talking in circles


there’s nothing worse than soggy ramen, i replied, and you took it

as evidence of my characteristic flippancy. had you let me finish,

i’d have continued my analogy: there’s nothing worse than good things

left to stew, stew, stew until they pickle into ghosts of themselves.

as in: i the soup, you the ramen, i will ruin you if you stay, and all that noise.

there. it’s on the nose, not my best metaphor, but one you’d have understood

had you been less angry. once, you called me the mistress of talking in circles

and though i chuckled (“i have OCD, you bastard”), it was so as not to wail.

my bad. i’ve been called punctilious, easily distracted by the minutiae,

chasing tails like bloodsport. you’ve made yourself dizzy at my flank.

when you told me you were leaving you said it’s for my best i countered

happy for you, weighing and appraising all the future hurts, hands clasped,


going double file down your marrow for days. another thing you once

told me: i have, sometimes, a mean way of saying things. with a laugh.

sort that makes folk wish they’d never implored me to speak up.

laconic me. these innervations, they rarely get an outlet, so

when they do, mad-dash, slapdash, toes stumbling on toes:

gracelessness downs the apology. i forget the adequate cry,

the suitable words of atonement. i ain’t shit. want nothing more than to

plead i beg you i beg you and no. but i just laugh and laugh instead.



When Sound Came to the Movies


That is what it must have felt like

the experience a concussive wave;

for many, a thrill and then some,

for others a thrill pre-calling trouble;

this cavity inside me it is a panicle

that binds to all other transmutations

of sadness, a sort of hunger-whitenoise,

live wire when touched. See it, you’ll

believe it, they said. I tried and tried,

crouched against ramparts on dusky days,

trying to pin the bird mid-flight.

At last I entertained the umbral thought,

and the wing, castoff, struck me in the eye,

and the flame went straight for my hand.

The way it comes ashore in you is proof

of the fact: you still don’t get it.

A word sets it off and you’re left reeling;

saffron-colored sky corners remind you of her

wax print gown. You are cast back there

when whiffs of braised red snappers rip

your restful childhood right out of you.

Although silent, the Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat,

would have found me stupefied in my seat, juggling

maddening chasms like: it hurts + it is the truth.

A secret: there is no chasm, never has been.

I hope this serves in any way.

I hope someone else displaced

like me can read into this and say

yes, that, exactly that feeling.

Had I asked her, before she died, she’d have said:

Think about the universe.

Think of all the ways in which

it has tried to make you see yourself.

How dare you turn your back from it

try to dim its sound,

and call it cruel?



A. Martine is a trilingual writer, musician and artist of color who goes where the waves take her. She might have been a kraken in a past life. She’s an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press and a co-Editor-in-Chief and Producer of The Nasiona. Her collection AT SEA was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize. Some words found or forthcoming in, Déraciné, The Rumpus, Moonchild Magazine, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Metaphorosis, South Broadway Ghost Society, Gone Lawn, Rogue Agent, Boston Accent Lit, Porridge Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Figure 1, Willawaw, and Tenderness Lit. @Maelllstrom/www.amartine.com.



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