by Fatimah Asghar
photo by Bowen Rodkey
ADVICE TO ME IN THE 4TH GRADE FROM
THE ONLY AUNT WHO EVER LOVED ME
after Sherman Alexie
They arrived gently on my desk one morning. Encased in a Christmas tree ornament: the two diamond studs, blossoms of chandelier and metal. The boy with the scars on his back who I called boyfriend nicked them from his grandmother’s dresser, brought them away from the blood and whip of his household, hand-delivered to my classroom as early as the school day allowed.
Everyday he checked my ears for them, but like a good secret, they were hiding too deeply in the folds of my clothes to be heard. Instead, I bought fake ones from the dollar store down the street and wore those, watched the boy with the scars on his back and the kids of my childhood—too poor and broken to tell the difference between costume and jewelry—marveled at the glitter. The boy with the scars on his back was beginning to grow talons, afraid of the no ready on my lips. They reached towards all the parts of my body that were not shiny and his, as he sharpened them enough to be able to cut diamonds himself.
HE HUFFED AND HE PUFFED
As told by Allah
I made you a memory of hay.
No redwood or bricks. No
cement lock down to place.
Look at the way it collapses
when blown down. Look
at the twigs that scatter,
how your whole house swirls
like pollen, dusting everyone’s
nose. Look, how you become a hay
strand flying in a typhoon
of a breeze. Look how you are made
more than breath.
UNEMPLOYMENT POEM #1
On the 62nd day, God made poverty,
and made you—a rattling knapsack
of bones, a pillar of salt and young river
of water to swallow and swallow. Dumpster
girl, always hunting leftovers. Your feet
are minefields, or better, rotten jack-o’-lanterns
the way they threaten to crumble anytime you stand.
Look at the way you disappear before yourself.
Even the hairs on your toe are starving. Look
at the way the poor sucks your cheekbones
to mountain tops. Look at the way your hip bones
are surgeon’s knives. You are finally woman enough
to be sold. ◥
Fatimah Asghar is a poet and performer who is almost always in-between two places. Her literary work hovers between prose and poetry, examining fact through a lyrical lens. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Word Riot, Muzzle Magazine, DecomP, Fringe, and many others. In 2011 she created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Spoken Word Poetry group, REFLEKS, while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-genocidal countries, and now serves as an Associate Artist for the Redmoon Theater in Chicago.
Bowen Rodkey is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. www.bowenrodkey.com