a girl dances and i think about how she eats her fingernails for lunch
and they grow back just in time for dinner.
and after dinner she can paint meticulous black boundaries on them, only to be chewed off
throughout the night.
and as the nocturnal creatures march out with their neon halter necks and shivering legs, she is
permitted to join their ranks. she shoots straight; asks about your job and tells you what she’s
studying and doesn’t ask you to take your hand off her thigh and doesn’t tell you what she’s really
she goes AWOL when her eyes start pushing back into her skull. vomits in the alleyway. one final
salute and the taxi driver pulls in. home. sleep. get some rest. big night tomorrow!
what dingy wonders
this chambered organ,
for the dear widow’s heart gave out
much too soon :
Do as you’re told
Don’t be shy
Make them proud
Best days of
Get a degree
Don’t sleep around
Find a job
Get a house
Keep in touch
But not in a bottle.
when I was young I played
with my plastic pink palace
constructing a monarchy,
and a class system at five,
determining who would have
the pretty bedroom
with the window
who would be a princess
who would cook,
with barefoot plastic feet
in a small fake kitchen
near tiny plastic rats
The female dolls wore dresses
that snapped off their bodies
revealing clothes less
pretty and poofy,
I married them off
to possessive plastic men
who fought wars
for the king
I had a playset
with a carriage and
the driver came
holding a plastic whip
as a little girl,
i went to lick the
sugar drip of every
born from satin
swirls & 7-eleven cigs
the scent of
strangers – lure &
mist, fills me
through a filter.
the ladies in the
band; i wore guitar
& sang bob dylan
for a week.
I was more gloomy than ever. As the house got closer to my steps, the warmth slapped on my face, a
slap exactly like the one of the man whose beard is black and white, like our TV and like my shoes
and like me and my black and white life. At the same time that his fingers imprinted my broken pride
mixed with happiness and shame as a five-finger image on my cheek, I was a light year away from
happiness. I absorbed the grief, or no, the grief was absorbing me. What does it matter, whether I
absorb it or it absorbs me, I was the loser and that’s it. Grief followed me all over Mustofiat to Sufi
Abad, as if I had killed its lover, or was in debt to it. It was following me, I could feel it struggling until
suddenly, with its own permission and not mine, grief left my eyes, turned on my cheeks, rolled itself
over my cheeks, lower and lower, so my mouth became salty and life became colorless as death.
Through the capillaries to my heart it spread like a corona deep into my being. Grief made me cough
so much that tears reached my nose and started pouring out my eyes like Niagara Falls. I didn’t want
grief to be spectacular, and for this I raised my head.
With the collision of my eyes and her hair, fear jumped in me again and more stones were thrown at
my feet, which were more tired than ever. With a movement and a sound that I can’t write, I lifted
my nose, my mouth was no longer salty, and I could see better. I looked at her hair, her laugh and
her beautiful and troublesome gown with a pity that I had never felt before. I was sorry for her and
even more so, she reminded me again why, how, where, and from whom I had recived that slap. I
still didn’t know which bridge my laughter, my dress, and my enthusiasm had destroyed, which root
has dried up in which corner of history, in which house had decomposed God’s brain? Was my
freedom the reason for painting schools and library walls with the blood of books and students?
Were girls really the ones who exploded everything in Afghanistan? I really didn’t know what my
loud laughter did wrong that I didn’t know about myself. If I knew what I had done I would have
punished myself. I thought a thought and asked myself why these words are my right and why does
God hate me and think that I am shameless or his enemy? Was what those pious men (the Taliban)
say was correct? After all, I was laughing with God! I really wanted God to believe it. I painted my lips
like the pomegranates of our village garden, because the tall mirror in our house said I was prettier
that way and I always wanted and I didn’t want to be prettier!
They tell me to be at peace.
They don’t notice that I am in pieces.
Regardless of the blood that drips from my lips.
Regardless of the bruises that shackle my wrists.
They wrestle control from bloodied fingers,
and crack my knees against the floor.
They wish to strip me of my strength,
and trap me in my voice.
They wish for me to cease,
gagging me with dirtied money.
They think it will stop me,
stuffed mouth unable to speak.
Is my womb crying out in pain because a month has gone by
with another egg unfertilized or is it echoing
the maenad lament across the country,
grief-stricken, hair matted, bloodied
from a war waged and lost.
Part I (Yours)
Each time you lead me to the box,
I get in:
Willingly, even gratefully.
I close my eyes and hear the locks click.
The room begins to spin.
But you just shrug,
And drop your hacksaw to the floor,
Then walk offstage--
Your arm around the latest bunny
Pulled from your hat--
As I beg you:
Either let me out,
Or pick up that saw and finish the job.
for thirty years,
i’ve noticed a ritual
around the fine
silk nightgowns i fold
with precision and the
sullied, red fevers of
three times a year now,
i let myself slip from
the sick air of
and fall silent
– a lost pilgrim
swallowed by night,
choking on lilacs