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after Jon Pineda

By Tarfia Faizullah

for this, I am grateful. This elegy

doesn’t want a handful of puffed rice

tossed with mustard oil and chopped chilies,

but wants to understand why a firefly

flickers 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 a streetlamp dying as suddenly as

a child who, in death, remains a child.

Somewhere, there is a man meant for me,

or maybe he is meant merely to fall

asleep beside me. Across two oceans, there

is a world in which I thought I could live

without grief. There, I watched the hands

of a leper reach with hands made of lace

towards a woman who leaned into him.

There, I fingered bolts of satin I never

meant to buy. There, no one said her name.

How to look down into the abyss without

leaning forward? How to gather the morning’s

flustered shadows into a river? To forget

my sister was ever born? Tonight, I will

watch a man I could have loved walk past,

hefting another woman’s child. He won’t

look at me. I won’t have 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?

TARFIA FAIZULLAH will join Buffalo-based poet Cheryl Quimba at the next Silo City Reading Series event at 7 p.m. Friday at 100 Childs St. Born in Brooklyn to Bangladeshi parents who immigrated to the United States in 1978, and raised in Midland, Texas, she has degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, and is currently the Nicholas Delbanco Professor in Poetry at the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program. This poem is from her debut collection “Seam” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award.