Mona Arshi

Mona Arshi was born in West London where she still lives. She worked as a Human Rights lawyer for a decade before she received a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and won the inaugural Magma Poetry competition in 2011. Mona was a prize winner in the 2013 Troubadour international competition and joint winner of the Manchester Creative writing poetry prize in 2014. Her debut collection, Small Hands, was published by Pavilion Poetry, Part of Liverpool University Press. Small Hands won the Forward Prize for best first collection in 2015.



Mostly we are waiting for rain.
Sometimes we let
it fall gently
on our faces.
This is what a flower does.

Yesterday, I saw his eyes
in the eyes of a young man next
to the water-fountain.
We tell the children, we should not
look for him, he is everywhere.

He is everywhere.
We need not look in the black
sunflower seeds we take out for
the finches or between the blind
echoes of our prayers.

After rain, we lift up sheets of
canvas, like our own private
church-we expect
no answer-nothing stirs,
though he must be there.


A Pear from the Afterlife

By now the light is failing,
his face is fading though
in the window our heads are floating

like balloons in the glass.
In his deathness, he never looked
more alive.

‘Sis, you gotta let go of this idea
of definitive knowledge.
Don’t look on it as a journey

more like a resettling or
dusting off or
re-tuning of the radio.

There are elm trees here
and these geckos slip
surreptitiously under the door

from my side to yours
and we suck on
pebbles for comfort.

Someday… you should learn to swim;
toss the bread in the water,
agitate the shy fish;

lay down in the last hour of light
wait for the stars to fuss and faint
against the cloth and then

listen to the rising
chants of the sap,
the grasses panting all around you.’

‘Too bad you have to go back,’ I say,
and he sighs like an old man
impatiently re-teaching a child.

The scent of seawater drifts from his hair.
‘There are so many ways of
looking at the moon

and you should trust the rain again.’
‘Before you go,’ I say
‘Will you bring me a pear from

the afterlife or a ripe papaya,
an accidental patch of clover
or something that has roots

and grows in your silent soil;
something that can live
on my tiny balcony?’

Return to Issue One