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.