archives winter 2008




The white cross pales
further still,
            its nailed arms
watchful as window-light

furls over the backs of our knees,
as lavender shadows
            cut across
our young necks

in this makeshift classroom
church where I kneel with
            the others, restless
on the cracked leather

kneeler—how I crave
these cream candles,
            how my hungry
tongue sings

fidelis, fidelis
as I imagine Mother
            in her kitchen
black and white

film songs as she curls
her hennaed fingers
            around the rolling pin’s
heavy back and forth

while Father rocks
in his chair, the Qur’an
            on his desk open to the last
page, the dark words

blurring as his eyes close,
seeing again the shapla-flower
            shaped epitaph
on his father’s

tombstone.  Now, with my head
bowed, I whisper amar
            naam Tarfia until it is
a prayer that grows.

I help stack the hymnals
higher, and
cup the candelight away. 


Monsoon Season

She shatters ceramic plates into blue
and green-splintered birdbaths, fills
a mason jar with buttons. Outside,

a Texas storm whips a paintbrush
plant free of its delicate arms. She
paints her nails pomegranate-red

until a hummingbird hover close,
suspended like an elegy over her
breathless hand, the afternoon

closing in with its piled, helpless
waste.  She falls asleep in her
chair, dreams of monsoon season:

poor children cutting themselves
apart to craft the long, dark arms
of sitars, the mouths of fishermen

opening, closing, while a young
woman draped in black unhinges
the damp swath over her mouth

to touch her lips to a river dark
neck.  When she wakes, her body
is a shivering, hungry argument

that ignores the fact of poleaxed
streetlamps flickering on one
by one.  As she slips back into

sleep to grieve the wet distance
between her shut eyes and a country
that she cannot bear to cut herself

away from, the rain starts again,
bears down on the disused file
cabinets someone has emptied

and dragged down to the dumpsters,
the bruise-blue drawers doubtful
and damaged, lying alone on their sides.  


Tarfia Faizullah is a second-year MFA student at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as the associate editor of Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. She is a 2007 AWP Intro Journals Award Winner and the recipient of an honorable mention from the Catherine and Joan Byrne Poetry Prize. She was a 2003 Writers at Work Fellowship Finalist. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, The Daily Star, Green Mountains Review, Mid-American Review, and Harpur Palate.