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  • Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine's School for Girls, and: Reading Tranströmer in Bangladesh, and: En Route to Bangladesh, Another Crisis of Faith, and: To the Bangladeshi Cab Driver in San Francisco
  • Tarfia Faizullah (bio)
  • Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine's School for Girls
  • Tarfia Faizullah (bio)

"If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow."

—Orhan Pamuk, Snow

Before the hanging cross, the girlstake turns standing at attention beforeus with eyes closed or hands clasped,

headbands bright green or banglesyellow, glints that fill the silence likefalling snow. They recite poems they

have carried in their mouths for days,and my desire to go back, to be oneamong these slender, long-haired girls

is a thistle, sharp and twisting at myside. The words psalm, blessing, lordrise in me like bees heavy with pollen,

and the teenager I once was unzipsherself from me, emerges, a crocusbristling through snow. She is back

in the old chapel where the priestagain lifts into the air the Bible,declaims about the kingdom of God,

gifts promised only the righteous—the girl I was, heavy and slow in herthick glasses, knew she would never

enter heaven, never be these young girlssinging, arms pale and slim as the whitebirch whose branches, dappled with gold, [End Page 22]

shade the stained-glass window. In Pamuk'snovel, the headscarf girls in Eastern Turkeyhang themselves rather than go uncovered,

and still I desire that certainty of conviction,even as the self beside me pulls on her hair,sucks long strands of it deep into her mouth,

so I gather her in my arms, shake her, tellher to listen, that the sky will always happen,these branches. Sometimes, it causes me

to tremble, tremble, she sings beside thesegirls who will grow into or away from theirbodies, and I know I must push the heavy

amber of her back inside me. Help me, Lord.There are so many bodies inside this clumsy one. [End Page 23]

Tarfia Faizullah

[inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="" xlink:href="02i" baseline-shift="floatLeft"/] "In a letter to Edward Garnett, Joseph Conrad wrote, 'I feel nothing clearly. And I am frightened when I remember that I have to drag it all out of myself.' These poems, I hope, attempt the impossible task Conrad describes by trying to enact the complexities of both obsessive memory and grief and to show how they rise up in odd and devastating ways in foreign or familiar settings.

"Three of these poems, 'Poetry Reading at St. Catherine's School for Girls,' 'Reading Tranströmer in Bangladesh' and 'En Route to Bangladesh, Another Crisis of Faith,' owe incomparable debts to three visionary writers whose work I always return to, particularly in the aftermath of difficult losses. Both 'Poetry Reading at St. Catherine's School for Girls' and 'To the Bangladeshi Cab Driver in San Francisco' owe a debt to my awkward and confused younger self, who likes to show up when I least expect it."

Tarfia Faizullah's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Cincinnati Review, diode, Ploughshares and elsewhere. She is the recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Project Award and is currently based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

  • Reading Tranströmer in Bangladesh
  • Tarfia Faizullah (bio)

for Meherunnessa Chowdhury, 1924-2010


In Grandmother's house,we are each a room thatmust remain locked. Insideit, a prayer mat carelesslyfolded on a low table, asthough hands that oncepressed down on it are notbelow ground. Who hasstripped bare the whitewalls of the black velvettapestry depicting Ka'bah,house of God? I let inthe netherworld. Somethingrose from underneath. I sit,wait through my cousin'ssobs. This morning, anothersudden loss: a classmate'sdeath, she says. Sordiddetails flare out like sailsof a ship: mother trappedin an asylum, father weeping,son's warm body cradledin his arms, bone still lodgedin his young throat. To whomwould this not be an inelegant...


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