Adeeba Shahid Talukder

Subh-e-firaaq: Morning of Separation; at West 4th; Until; Image: Adeeba Shahid Talukder

Subh-e-firaaq: Morning of Separation

Those evenings,
nectar-sweet, where you
held my hand, fragile
with desire—

we kissed, shivering by the church-light.
Each word we spoke, plucked from a river—
a season, despite itself, of roses.

But in that cold air
when we peered into the future,
we found our path dark and empty,
found our house
in flames.

How did we rake the ash then,
how, with madness,
turn fate?

Now when we pull apart as we sleep,
we both feel a loss.

My love, I must leave again tomorrow.

It is cold again
and these branches, undressed,


reach into the darkness, waiting
for their beloved to return
so they can know something of Spring.


at West 4th

There are real artists and there are con-artists.
Real art comes from

—here, he pointed both index fingers
to the subway ceiling—

There was light.



At your center velvet
light shatters.


for the hospital bed.


I draw on your palm a throne. Another


garden. Now when
you sing the words lag.


a tear in the fabric



Mother I
am so broken
I cannot dance


even when I am alone.


My self is half cowering child
and half the stones of this world.


Mother in the mirror
I see nothing




My skin is gray, my eyes
swollen. The harder
I look,


the more ways I find
I am wretched.


Mother were you broken too?
Mother how did they break you?
Did they tell you you were not beautiful


like you told me?

Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani American poet, singer, and translator of Urdu and Persian poetry. She is the author of What Is Not Beautiful (Glass Poetry Press, 2018) and her debut collection, Shahr-e-jaanaan: The City of the Beloved (Tupelo Press, 2020), is a winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Poem-A-Day, Gulf Coast, Tupelo Quarterly, and The Margins, and her translations in PBS Frontline and Words Without Borders. A Best of the Net finalist and a Pushcart nominee, Adeeba holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and an Emerging Poets fellowship from Poets House.