Monday Jun 18

FaizullahTarfia Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf, 2018) and Seam (Southern Illinois UP, 2014), winner of a VIDA Award, a GLCA New Writers’ Award, a Milton Kessler First Book Award, Drake University Emerging Writer Award, and other honors. Her poems are published widely in periodicals and anthologies both in the United States and abroad, are translated into Persian, Chinese, Bengali, Tamil, and Spanish, have been featured at the Smithsonian, the Rubin Museum of Art, and elsewhere, and are the recipients of multiple awards, including three Pushcart Prizes, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, a Fulbright Fellowship, and other honors. In 2016, she was recognized by Harvard Law School’s Women Inspiring Change. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan in the Helen Zell Writers' Program.
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The Sacrifice
—Qurbani Eid


No, I said. I want
to watch them behead
the goat

                        with the men.
Her eyes glistened
as the scythe sang
down            

                        her neck
and spine. I’m proud
of you, the uncles said. It is
important

                        to observe
death. Her hoof, cleaved
from her shin. Her belly.
Everywhere

                        I looked
was trickling ant-shadow.
Pleasant banter. Her blood.
The aunts

                        came out
to slide the chopped acres
of her into hissing onion
and oil.

                        The goat
was steam-soft and spice-bold.
I ate her between my cousins,
licked

                        my palm across
the blood-gravy of what was left
on the filigreed china. Yes,
I savored

                        her more than
once: first with rice, then with
chutney. My first death. I felt
curious,

                        conflicted. Satisfied.




Feast or Famine

When the night gapes wider,
the child you once were
wakes and chokes with hunger
and you begin to soothe her

as you always do: first with hunger
and then more hunger,
because it’s summer,
because the days are longer,

because you have to keep her lean,
because yes, she has to learn
to want, because yes, she has to train
to run through spring,

its melting forests,
to follow the path of pines,
far from your parents,
far from anyone who pins

you to yourself after stubbing out lit
cigarette after lit cigarette
on your thighs. When the night
bloats open, tell the little

girl you still are and once were
to go back to sleep, go curl
inside the rise-and-fall of the warmth
asleep beside you—the one who loves her

and you—that she doesn’t have to deny
the past anymore, that in Bangla, “kheeda
laage” can mean “I feel hunger” as well
as “I want you,” that the swell of the belly

only disappears when she starves
you. “Kheeda laage,” you say to the one who strokes
her hair and devours
your mouth, and the ghosts

whittle into whispers flayed of their lost
appetites—listen.




Great Material

There were the blue-tied garbage bags
bulging with her dresses. Then, the buzz
of junebugs on nights I sat on the roof alone
and asked where my sister was until I felt stupid

and stopped. What do you say to the dead?
How can we rejoin them when we fall apart
in the safety net below? Does she know
her friends Lauren and Cameron played

house after she died, set a place for her
at a play dinner table? As though she
might stop by for a few bites of air
from empty plates with spoons empty

of her short seven years on this planet . . .
it unbottles me, how precisely they lamented
her. What great material, the conference
well-wisher said. Can’t wait to read that poem.

Here it is then, now. The crinkle of your laughter.
The beetles pouring into your eyes as we toast you.




. . . But You Can’t Stay Here

Every day, I rack up some new cost I can’t repay,
and even now, I’m reluctant to run to the door
on nights the world sizzles with drizzle-drama,

all that drop and give me more. Tonight, the ghouls
are later than usual. Isn’t it polite to wait before
serving the first course? I murmur to my forebears

as they slide the biryani from the oven.
Uncover the lime wedges and old resentments,
they reply, so I do. At last, we lick each virtue

from our plates with satisfaction, then settle in
to savor spoonfuls of milk-softened toast
without dreading tomorrow morning’s inevitable

convo about self-worth. Speaking of, today
I stepped on the cat’s tail and sprang back
in apology, but when she didn’t yelp and dash,

I remembered: there was no tail, there was no cat.