Four Poems| Sharif Shakhshir

Paradise for Coyotes

For Katie


I want to go broke with you.

I want to face disaster and chase other foolish stars

with silly names among the monosaurs and pegasi

Let’s cross unwise hemispheres

like coyotes disrespectful of borders.

When the bad men build their sad conspiracies

and chase us into the darkness

the night will long be our home.

Let their monsters find us

uncivil and cruel. Our hearts in harmony

will see the time of retrograde’s end.

When unvarnished wood rots their cut-rate structures,

paradise will be the wreckage, you, and me.


Save Our Ship


There’s fear in the weatherman’s voice. Static announces danger on the airwaves. Leave town right now. There’s nothing worth saving. Except maybe your cat. Because it’s a particularly good cat. The apocalypse will leave nothing behind, and it’s coming this way. So open the can of wet food and coax the remaining goodness from under the futon and get in the truck. In the tempest we are nothing. God help nothing. There’s nothing that deserves saving. The waters are rising. The engine has choked and stalled. We are adrift. In these arctic winds, you are a light sweater. There are no rainbows on Judgment Day. God has no more promises to break. But if we make it through this, we must gamble more squarely, not count each other’s money, and work only for nothing. Empty out the cooler, except for some treats. Roll down your window and give the cat his chances. As goodness sails away, we sink into one last kiss where neither of us breathes. It is only a moment and then the eternity after.


How to Befriend Magical Creatures

The stories will have you believe that if you’re lucky and crafty you will trap a beast of magic. While you may trap it, you will not befriend it. Bottle a Will o’ Whisp for the glass to wax it less. Collar a wolf to forfeit the wolf. Ride a unicorn like a horse and like a horse it will be. Mistaken and lost are those who master a magic one with a colonizer’s heart. The magic are done with deals with human beings and their contract things. The leprechauns have nothing to gain, the dragons have all been slain, and the many-tailed foxes can become anything but good lawyers. Understand that the unspoken binds deeper. A city coyote is seen between moments of being gone. It’s being of here is scarce and sacred. Let its divine gaze quiz your soul and live your best to have one that will not fail. When the creature ends the moment and is ether once more, let the awe settle inside you. Be gracious. A thank you is a prayer to a friend.




That September


They envy my freedom,

my dazzle, my glitter…

W explains terrorism

like a prom queen primping

through a humble brag

about why

the bullied girls might

have mean thoughts

against her.



The Freudian reading

of that September

is not hard.

A smaller phallus

penetrates the larger.

They crumble down to craters

leaving only an ashen white mess.

It happens to lots of places,

but talks between pentagon and oval locker rooms have a different tone.

The men are scared.



The zodiac of armed conflict

in the winter months:




and warlords,

but nations are springtime.

A group of nations decided that
terrorism done by nations
is not terrorism.
and so their

bombs are differently blessed.
Such is the privilege of power
in the winters of justice.



All between the oceans
White people
bandwagon their patriotism.
Baba says when
white people are scared,
people die.
An Accuweather forecast
of mosque shootings, hate crimes,
disappearances, Gitmo, and endless wars.
Before the 45th,

The downward slope starting the W.
The one called “The better one”
by white people who resist with hashtags,
poems, and safety pins.
Who on that day saw unity and flags.

They did not see my Amo Ahmed
try to hang fabric of blue, white,
and lambs’ blood red over our door
to guard against the specter of death and
what plague pharaoh might decide to bring.

There was no flag on my house yesterday,
I’m not going to have one today,
said Baba. The doomsday prophet
had seen no doom for us today.
But said, Maybe put a bumper sticker
on my daughter’s Nissan.

 Not my truck.
Not my wife’s Saturn.

My sister says
she never allowed
a Shinto-like talisman to ward evil,
but faced harm bravely. She swears
to never taking the fake identity
to slip passed the Gestapo guards
of American white virtue.



Mom says we will be

rounded up in the Pomona Fairplex

like the Japanese.
Mom is not the doomsday prophet.
Mom is a nurse.
Mom has no remedy.
I tell my friend

my mom’s concern.
It sucks you’re going
to a concentration camp,
but war is cool.


I have just started high school,
not studying for the day’s spelling test.
School would begin with an F.
When mom says I am not

going today, I have not seen the news.
I do not question fortune.
I say Cool, and drop my book bag.
I am not yet a doomsday prophet.


Photo by Jens Rademacher on Unsplash


Sharif Shakhshir is a graduate of the Master’s of Professional Writing Program at USC. His poetry has appeared in The Anthology of Writing that Risks, Zocalo Public Square, and The New Plains Review.

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