- The streetlamp above me darkens
after Jon Pineda
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 [End Page 158]
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 reallywant to forget the damp scent of my grave? [End Page 159]
Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Seam, winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and forthcoming in 2014 from Southern Illinois University Press. Her poems have appeared in Missouri Review, Southern Review, Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and a Ploughshares Cohen Award, as well as scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop, and Vermont Studio Center.