Poetry | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 31, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:26 PM, April 01, 2018

Poetry

WHAT THIS ELEGY WANTS

It doesn't want a handful of puffed rice

tossed with mustard oil and chopped chilies,  

but wants to understand why a firefly  

flares off then on, wants another throatful  

 

or three of whiskey. This elegy is trying 

hard to understand how we all become

 

corpses, but I'm trying to understand 

permanence, because this elegy wants 

 

to be the streetlamp above me that darkens 

as sudden as a child who, in death, remains 

a child. Somewhere, there is a man meant 

for me, or maybe just to fall asleep beside me.  

 

Across two oceans, there is a world where 

I thought I could live without grief. There,  

I watched a vendor reach with hands of lace 

towards a woman who looked like me. There,  

 

I fingered bolts of satin I never meant to buy. 

There, no one said her name. How to look  

into the abyss without leaning forward? How  

to gather the morning's flustered shadows 

 

into a river? Tonight, I will watch a man I still 

love walk past, hefting another woman's child.  

He doesn't look at me. I won't wonder if I  

wanted him to. This elegy wonders why  

 

it's so hard to say, I always miss you. Wait,  

she might have said. But didn't you want  

your palms to be coated in mustard oil? Did you  

really want to forget the damp scent of my grave? 

SELF-PORTRAIT AS MANGO  

She says, Your English is great! How long have you been in our country?   

I say, Suck on a mango, bitch, since that's all you think I eat anyway. Mangoes 

 

are what margins like me know everything about, right? Doesn't 

a mango just win spelling bees and kiss white boys? Isn't a mango  

 

a placeholder in a poem folded with burkas? But this one,  

the one I'm going to slice and serve down her throat, is a mango  

 

that remembers jungles jagged with insects, the river's darker thirst.  

This mango was cut down by a scythe that beheads soldiers, mango  

 

that taunts and suns itself into a hard-palmed fist only a few months  

per year, fattens while blood stains green ponds. Why use a mango  

 

to beat her perplexed? Why not a coconut? Because this “exotic” fruit 

won't be cracked open to reveal whiteness to you. This mango  

 

isn't alien just because of its gold-green bloodline. I know 

I'm worth waiting for. I want to be kneaded for ripeness. Mango:  

 

my own sunset-skinned heart waiting to be held and peeled, mango  

I suck open with teeth. Tappai! This is the only way to eat a mango.  

Tarfia Faizullah is a Bangladeshi-American poet. The chosen poems are  from her most recent collection Registers of Illuminated Villages published in March 2018. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies in the US and other countries of the world.

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