BY FATIMAH ASGHAR
In the mornings I peel off my sadness
& hang it up to dry. I walk throughout
the day with my organs out
as the mosquitos orbit my blood.
I watch a petal bloom into a skirt of pink
& think of how I waited for my first period
for years & the morning the red stain
rippled in the toilet. How I played football
with the boys in the school park
& let my moustache grow longer
than anyone in my class
& isn’t that a type of girlhood
too? In my sex dreams a penis swings
between my legs, a pendulum or clock
tower puncturing my days. I watch
myself destroy the bodies of others.
& my wetness blooms across the sheets.
Maybe this is why I wake up sad.
Longing for my other body only to rise,
drowned in an echo of its silhouette.
Mother, where are you? How would
you have taught me to be a woman?
A man? Can you help me? Each day
without you I pile questions
& whisper them to the soil,
your new body & the grass laughs
in my face. Sometimes I laugh
along & for a moment forget
I was talking to you. Sometimes
I let you go & my body is fully mine.
Fully alive, dancing, boy-girl
feet pounding into the earth.
Not the graveyard it pretends
to be. Sometimes, I come home full
brimming with the hours of the day.
The fault from my sudden joy,
my forgetting, glowing guilty on my skin.
I put my grief back on. I’m not used
to being happy. Like how I’m not used
to high-heeled shoes. Or too many rings.
But, please, know I am not complaining.
Don’t take from me my loneliness.
I promise, my small joy is not goodbye.
ways i am tired
BY FATIMAH ASGHAR
how many times has someone killed
my name before meeting me?
my own lover bleeds out asghar
with a knife, cuts the seeds
from the pepper & doesn’t worry
if it will continue to grow.
a seedless hari mirch. it’s getting
harder for me to eat spicy food
& I pretend I don’t know why.
all my life I’ve been trying to remember
who I am. all my life I’ve been erasing
myself to make seats at the table
for everyone else. how can I demand
more from the world if I can’t even
ask for my name in love?
on the train another white girl
compliments my eyelashes
& then starts plumping on mascara.
she preens & preens until they are three
times the size they once were, looks
up at me & smiles.
can’t we be pretty without being theirs?
when I start to cry she angles her body
away from me & pulls out her compact
mirror, which says conquer.
I hate being called by my name
when I’m getting fucked.
each lover I’ve had who’s laid
it out to rot & calls themself sexy.
the carcass of my name clings
between their teeth like old
meat. it haunts the entire room
all night, keeping me
awake. no one else can smell it.
I read about the white poet
who took a Chinese name
& can’t move for an hour.
I read about the Syrian orphans
being made every minute
& weep into the floor.
I remember walking the souks
of Aleppo at night & how everyone
smiled. how a man gifted
me a bar of soap that is still
unopened because I thought it smelled
too silky to be wasted on my skin.
I wonder where he is now.
the white women in my timeline
think I’m racist because I write
about cultural appropriation.
why can’t we have that too?
somewhere, the girl is still riding
the train, plumping her eyelashes
& peering into a mirror that tells
her to conquer. I can’t get out
of bed & my lover doesn’t understand
why. no one knows the ways
in which I am tired, my dead name
on everyone’s breath.
Fatimah Asghar is a poet and performer based in Chicago. She has been published in many journals, including Poetry, Gulf Coast, The Margins, and The Paris-American. She is a writer and a teaching artist, and is a Kundiman Fellow and a member of the Dark Noise Collective.
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