FATIMAH ASGHAR


 
 
THIS IS NOT IN PRAISE OF POISON
after jean-michel basquiat

poison like waiting patiently for the gates
to open or for the doors to unlock
themselves poison as in trying to make a key
by practice poison as in being on your best
behavior & hoping they let you in
poison as in you know their history better
than they do & they still say affirmative
action
still say so lucky you got something
exotic 2 write about
poison as in the fair
& lovely
cream all across south asia
poison as in your family wont let you go
back to pakistan because of isis & al queda
& america’s bombs poison as in every year
it gets worse poison as in the brown boy
who followed you home & called you terrorist
poison as in you thought your skin color
made you on the same side poison
as in your aunt who says eating an apple
will make you fat poison as in the homeless
woman who yells go back to your country
after you don’t give her change poison
as in the muslim boy who says you dance
like shaitan poison as in in the poet
who reads a poem where anyone colored
is a punchline poison as in your girl friend
who dates girls but says she isn’t gay poison
like she says it just makes her freaky
& the boys like that poison as in the waxer
who rips hair off your face & says there
now don’t you look pretty
poison as in trying
to write about trees when the world is burning
poison as in how white castle is cheaper
than vegetables poison as in every house
is really a tower full of doors that wont open
so burn them all to hell, find a field
            & live there instead.

 
 
 
 

FAMILIES

My boyfriend picks up his bloodline
like a simple phone call.

He has a whole book he’s never opened
on an uncle murdered in The Sudan.

On Christmas, we find his grandmother
hid him a gift before she even knew

he existed—a binder full of recipes
pulled from each corner of his blood.

+

My best friend says the word granddaddy
and it sails from her lips.

Even after they buried him, my best friend
says granddaddy and a thousand horses

gallop, brandishing his flag. She says his name
and her spine becomes a mermaid, the whole

house oceans. My best friend says granddaddy,
each syllable honeyed with love & there he is—

sitting at the table, as though he’s never left.

+

I say family and shine a light into a graveyard.
I say mother and the word dies before I finish.
 
 
 
 



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