Sarah Ghazal Ali

Sarah Ghazal Ali is the author of Theophanies (Alice James Books, 2024), selected as the Editors’ Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award. A Djanikian Scholar and winner of the 2022 Sewanee Review Poetry Prize, her poems and essays appear in POETRY, American Poetry Review, The Yale Review, Guernica, and elsewhere. She is an associate editor for West Branch and a Stadler Fellow in literary editing at Bucknell University. Find her at and @caesarah_ on Twitter.

Ghazal Ghazal

My people are lovers of the sher, qasida, ghazal.

My people memorize the Qur’an & recite the ghazal.


My god elicits trust through aqsam, oath after oath.

My people sing don’t insist on leaving tonight, Farida’s ghazal.


My people must include my father, his voice lilting from baritone to bellow.

Did my god not make his mouth, sonic imprint of every remembered ghazal?


My people say I am a morsel of their great, green liver. My people love rst

like vultures, then martyrs. Death the sprawling shadow behind every sunlit ghazal.


My people are bordered. My people are borderless. My god swears

by the g, by the olive, by the brightest star, by the prophet who penned no ghazal.


My father practiced his english with me. I want to blame him—

my voice is not of my people, my throat may never house a true ghazal.


My father uncovered my hair. I want to blame him—

my prayers might never reach my god, my pleading ghazals.


Am I of my people? Do I please my lord? What to do

with the truth that khala, veiled sister-mother, named me ghazal?

This poem previously appears in Palette Poetry (2020).