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.