By Emily Ahmed

10 January, 2023

Emily Ahmed is Running Dog’s poet in residence for December 2022 and January 2023.

Each month, a poet produces new work, which is distributed via Running Dog’s monthly newsletter—Stray. If you haven’t already, sign up to our newsletter.

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Possibility: a spell that wants to be uttered
in a language you don’t quite remember, you
try to pluck these words from your dreams, make
a list of phrases you’ll attempt to translate: 

To deserve
To drool 
To forgive (oneself) 
How to ask for directions 
How to give directions

So, wandering and welcomed, you find
there is an inn at the edge of the darkest forest,
a mirage in the brambles and vines that one day
solidifies. You’ll have come a long way, your thighs
scratched and your boots grubby, embraced by a
film of dust that captures old memories. The innkeeper
will offer you her spare slippers, red and striped, 
will tell you, get used to people coming and going.

Enter: here, the shy women are posing for the
cameras, the visionary girls running the show, their
braids as intricate as their minds. Here, how they curl
into themselves to become, not smaller, but closer on
the couch, to make room for all, the movie is about to
start, sh, shhh.
Jello for dinner. After a month, you buy
a lamp for the first time since you were nine, when
you and your mother sat on cushions on the floor in an
empty flat for months before the furniture arrived, before
you grew up and resorted to picking up antiques and
opportunity off the street, always scanning for the next.

Inevitably, the lesson turns up as you ask, if not the
castle and not the inn and not the forest, Where? Where?
You ask the sky, ask the lover, ask the innkeeper.
Sitting at a corner table by a lantern in love’s glow, or in the
glory of the same old battles? Until the edges of those past
lives fade and you are just as you are, so listen: There is
no such thing as arrival.
There is chance, there is rest,
get used to people coming and going.