Tarfia Faizullah

Two Poems

Orbit: The Asian American Issue
Volume 15:3, Summer 2014

Instructions for the Interviewer

Once, she will say, I didn’t
know there was hollow inside

me until he pushed himself
into it.
Once, you learned

that inside you was not hollow
but seam: color of the rim of the river

tonguing the long dark shore
of stone: reflection of yourself

an endless ripple in corrugated
metal: width of silver bangle

circling now her thin, dark arm.
Take the tea she offers. Once,

she will say, I was young,
like you.
Once you wanted

anyone to fill you with blue
noise. Once, you didn’t know your

own body’s worth. Put the porcelain
cup down. Let it slide into

the saucer’s waiting hollow.


Dhaka Nocturne

I admit that when the falling hour
begins to husk the sky free of its
saffroning light, I reach for anyone

willing to wrap his good arm tight
around me for as long as the ribboned
darkness allows. Who wants, after all,

to be seen too clearly? Still, the heart
trusts, climbs back down the old
mango tree outside the bar to marvel

at the gymnast tornadoing forward,
electrifying the air with her soaring
body on the TV, even as the friend

beside me asks, But how could you
sleep in the same room as your dead
sister’s things?
Once, a man I loved

told me I was stunning. It terrified
me, the way grief still can, risen
above us in the bar, seeking its own

body. I tell her the body, exhausted,
does what it must, as it did then,
sutured itself to his, said, I’ll be

yours forever, with all its secretive
creases turning steam in this heat-
flustered city, wet fever of the nape

of my neck chiffoned beneath his
lips galaxying across it. I do not tell
her about the shelves of porcelain-

cheeked dolls tarnished lavender by
falling light, the ebony abundance
of my mother’s hair varnished blue

as she slid my sister’s child’s clothes
off the old wooden hangers, then back
on¬óbut what else is mine, if not all

this strange beauty? Look, I said to him,
running my own hands down myself:
night-rinsed anaglyph of muscle

and bone held fast against everything
yet to plunder this or any twilight’s
nameless and numinous unfurling.


These poems previously appeared in Seam by Tarfia Faizullah (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014).


Tarfia Faizullah is the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor in Poetr at the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers' Program and the author of Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Oxford American, Americacn Poetry Review, New England Review, and Best New Poets 2014. Her honors include fellowships and scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and Sewanee Writers' Conference. She co-directrs the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press and Video Series with Jamaal May in Detroit, MI.