Responsibility and other Poems


Sara Elkamel

Art by Izumi Ueda Yuu



after Grace Paley

It is my responsibility to record my dreams.
It is my responsibility to fool the reader into believing
the dream is real –
to delay revealing the dream as a dream.
For instance –
the dream of dying cats.
It is my responsibility to convince the reader
the cat is in fact hairless and hungry –
in fact neglected by me.
It is the responsibility of the woman to take care
of dying things.
It is my responsibility
to tell the reader, first, that I have failed
to feed the cats,
then, that I dreamed it –
the abscess that grew
from lip corner to center
of the heart. Its foul breaking apart.
It is my responsibility to train my heart
to erase the fear of living things.
It is my responsibility to realize – at my desk, without
much light – that my fear of something living
is my fear of something dying.
It is my responsibility to convince the reader the cat
is in fact dying
on the green balcony overlooking the school,
before revealing it only starved
inside my dream.
It is my responsibility to then clothe myself
in its abscess, say I have prowled
the night begging her
to feed me.
It is my responsibility to associate
the need with myself.
It is my responsibility to be the thing that hungers
and the thing that withholds.
It is my responsibility to insist on this error;
I am the cat.
The dream is of myself.
I need something I cannot give.
It is your responsibility to arrive at the end
thinking what is dying
is myself.



On the wet skin where thin sand meets saltwater,
you gave your back to the black sheet redacting

the Saudi mountains across the gulf and plucked
your strings, the girl who shared a name

with the moon humming, her fingers drunk
beetles in my hair. The Red Sea shrunk

into a puddle in the November night, or folded
into the sky. There was only us. As though tonight,

everyone had conspired to make their beds
below the shore. Le pas du chat noir was a mountain

carved into your chest, my mind an acacia
with no memory of the sun. I only noticed

you stopped playing when my foot
knocked over the mountain—its strings protruding

from my skin like sea urchin spines; the sole
swelling into another dark instrument.


In My Earliest Fear

My father dies in an amber room in the desert.

All my dreams of him are yellow.

I want to barter my life, but no one will take it.

When the sky is most open, I am dead to the world.

My palms face-down.

Skeletal lines soil the darkness.

There is a song I used to hum, about the virus.

I, I, I am your virus.

I surveil my sclerae for jaundice.

I smell inside my body.

My liver is a thorn in the soil.


Spring / Summer 2023

Sara Elkamel

Sara Elkamel is a poet, journalist, and translator living between Cairo and NYC. She holds an MA in arts journalism from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her poems have appeared in Poetry magazine, the Yale Review, Gulf Coast, the Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, Poetry London, Best New Poets, Best of the Net, among others. She is the author of the chapbook Field of No Justice (African Poetry Book Fund & Akashic Books, 2021).

Izumi Ueda Yuu

Izumi Ueda Yuu is a Japanese-born visual artist who lives and works in Lisbon. Yuu attended Kuwasawa Design School in Tokyo, received her BFA in Sculpture from Maryland Institute College of Art, and is a two-time recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council grant for individual artists. She has been an artist in residence at Foundation OBRAS Portugal; OBRAS-Holland; Atelier Outotsu, Osaka; and Awagami Factory, Yoshinogawa. Yuu was a finalist for the Luxembourg Art Prize, 2019. Her recent solo exhibitions took place at Museu do Oriente, and Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes (both in Lisbon).

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