In "Aubade: Incantation at a Closed Window," Tarfia Faizullah writes: "Do not mistake / love for bowls of orchids, their frantic couplings. / Frog girl, how do you love? Water, water, water, / a thimble rusted over, mussed sheets piled in their corner." The entire poem is written in this gentle, imperative mood. As such, the poem reads as if the poet has written these instructions chiefly to herself. The effect of that is one of tender self-awareness.
In both of these poems you'll be smitten with Tarfia's precise, poignant imagery and the distinct outline these lyrics cut across the landscape of the page, like an undeniable outline of a trees between a prairie and the wide sky above. "Remember how the sky / felt on that concrete rooftop, softer / because of the damp and draped lines / of your mother's saris? That happened / to you, and not me, but I am still young / enough to live without rage," Tarfia writes. These poems are ripe with undeniable truths and empathies that need only be spoken, not deciphered.
Aubade: Incantation at a Closed Window
Crack it open—look out to wet ferns
flattened in wet cement. Watch for painted
lines of curved streets, the lone apostle
always on his corner, struggling stacks
of damp Bibles. Recall spring—its damaged
communions, inbred blooms. Do not mistake
love for bowls of orchids, their frantic couplings.
Frog girl, how do you love? Water, water, water,
a thimble rusted over, mussed sheets piled
in their corner. Place each picture facedown,
tap the walls with a crimson feather. Fill
the red bowl with cracked shells. Let those
rooms these ghosts inhabit stay latched. Remain
here, in this room instead, where twilight wets
the exposed window while the metronome is ticking.
Always I want to please
you. Black hairs ring the sink
I wash my face in, and there is
always a larger thing that must
be folded, swept away. You
bring the diet pills, Mother,
and I'll bring the garam masala.
We'll wander grocery aisles
like we used to, though they are
empty of what will please you:
we'll make do with chopped
garlic for paste, jalapenos
for a thin, curled chili: a child
will skip stones in the parking lot,
and I will finally wrap that scarf
over my head, tuck it safe beneath
my chin. Remember how the sky
felt on that concrete rooftop, softer
because of the damp and draped lines
of your mother's saris? That happened
to you, and not me, but I am still young
enough to live without rage. Everywhere
I have tried to go is the same heavy
morning washed low with milk tea.
Bring the henna paste, Mother,
and I'll bring the cigarettes. We'll
sit on red cushions and fan each
other's river-wet hands. Only now
I understand that sorrow resigns
itself to yellow stars of forsythia,
thin cracks in burnt wood: this sadness
shaped like a knocked-over table. What
I want to know is how you know me:
the tree in the park graffitied over
with initials, my hand on the killing
knife, guiding it slowly forward.
About the Poet:
I am a graduate of VCU's creative writing program, and the former associate editor of blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. My poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Crab Orchard Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Diode, Bellingham Review and elsewhere. I am the recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Project award, the Ploughshares Cohen Award, and a Fulbright scholarship.
On the identity of The Nepotist:
Upon resuscitation at the shores of Jumeirah Beach in Dubai after a freak accident involving a beach ball and suntan lotion, Weldon Kees found himself in the body of one Anna Nicole Smith. He sat up, tossed back long, peroxide-blond locks, and looked around. "What year is it," he rasped in a soft Texan accent. "What kind of poetry is being written?" he implored of his rescuer, a young man clad only in a purple speedo and Gucci sunglasses. Shaking off his rescuer, he stood up, and staggered to the water's edge. "I must...become...the Nepotist. Before it's too late!" As he spoke, he noticed a young woman in a lounge chair, thumbing idly through A Night Without Armor, by someone named Jewel. Falling to his knees, his perfect breasts barely quivering, he screamed to the sky, "You maniac poets! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"