you are in the diode archives winter 2011



Colorization (i)

          —after the Bollywood film Guide (1965)

Pious heroine, you will not give
up your rouged lips and kohled eyes,

though you no longer dance for men
who once followed the slender glissandos

of your hips shifting beneath blue silk.
Now, we watch you pull the long hem

of your white sari over your head to meet
your lover by a river veiled by the sun’s

descent. He does not ask you for more
than you can offer: the quick flicker

of your eyelashes, a dark mouth pursed
like a pomegranate. Once, we watched

you turn away from him in black and white—
now, painted over in crimson, ochre, cream,

he will wrap himself in bleached cotton, fast
for days to keep hunger for you at bay. He will

reach for rotten bananas, thrown them back down.
On his deathbed, you will appear only as a vision:

a slender woman knelt beside him, waiting
for the directors to cue your sea-colored tears.


Colorization (ii)

          —after the Bollywood film Chori Chori (1956)

If the rich heroine does get
          the last word—even now, alone

in her bedroom, while silken
          drapes languish around her coiled

hair and bent head, when she lifts
          her eyes, finally, to sing, the dark

arabesques of the room’s furniture
          will dissolve into panes of shadow

until only her profile remains, lit
          by a candle cupped in crystal. How
could she have known then what
          she knows now? If a single white tear

contorts her cheek, then dusk will
          close in while sitars cluck in unison.

Her lips grow redder now, even
          in black and white. Note the open windows,

the trees, and the self-portrait trapped
          on the wall in its frame: both grieving

faces back-lit, lifted in perfect profile.


Colorization (iii)

          —after the Bollywood film Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Slave girl heroine, you stamp your hennaed feet,
prideful in the Hall of Mirrors, your arms curved,

your fingers splayed—the drummer’s hands stun
the taut skins of the tabla into frantic song, while

the emperor begins to vibrate—he will not let his son
have you, nor can he tear his eyes from your full lips,

the long braid just restrained. Soon enough, you will
know how unworthy your foolish lover is of the blade

you lay at his father’s feet. But what of your long neck,
once scalloped in black and white shadow, now painted

over in wide slashes of crimson and cream? Perhaps you
do not care—I have loved, so what do I have to fear,

you continue to sing—the emperor and his son gaze
at your swirling skirt, your outstretched arms, repeated

endlessly in thousands of glittering mirrors a poor Indian
boy has glued onto the ornate set for one glimpse of your face.


Colorization (iv)

          —after the Bollywood film Deedar (1951)

The blind heroine doesn’t realize the surgeon
is her childhood love until it is too late,

though the song they once sang as children
is repeated each time they hunger for sun-split

guavas and each other: a young boy and a young
girl, alone on the horse trotting against a gliding

backdrop of rural India. When their small hands
slip from the reins, and the harmonica’s breathy

optimism lurches into the urgency of violins,
we are relieved when she falls and throws

her arms across her face. But whose eyes
do avert our eyes from first—the boy’s dark

ones, looking down to his beloved? Or hers,
blinking, sudden and blind in black and white?  


Tarfia Faizullah’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Ploughshares Cohen Award.