Angels Coughing

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

What made the angels cough— the thick cloud of dust— was once our bodies. In the dust were our lepers, tanning addicts, tornado chasers, fakirs, pearl divers, nuns, organ smugglers, cosmeticians, in it were Olympians with prosthetics, in it were serial killers, chocolatiers, day laborers, stringers of prayer beads, muralists and miniaturists, in it were wombs that had once held tiny gardens gushing with nectars and fountains run to the rhythms of the mother’s heart, in it were what were once uncountable hearts, each with its piercing cry, in it were minds, which, when all unfurled at once, formed a loosely-seamed tent as big as the universe, singing with sparks along the edges. It was comforting, at last, to be a grain among grains, to rise as finest dust with the species that was our lot, to make the purer beings cough.


Shadab Zeest Hashmi is the author of poetry collections Kohl and Chalk and Baker of Tarifa. Her latest work, Ghazal Cosmopolitan, is a book of essays and poems exploring the culture and craft of the Ghazal and Qasida forms. Winner of the San Diego Book Award for poetry, the Nazim Hikmet Prize and multiple Pushcart nominations, Zeest Hashmi’s poetry has been translated into Spanish, Turkish, and Urdu, and has appeared in anthologies and journals worldwide, most recently in World LiteratureToday, Mudlark, POEM, Prairie Schooner and McSweeney’s anthology In the Shape of a Human Body I amVisiting the Earth. She has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence. Website:

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Digital) 

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