but what else is mine, if not all this strange beauty?

Sometimes I encounter a poet through complete happenstance and am filled with gratitude because I can’t imagine my life without her words in it. The Bangladeshi American poet Tarfia Faizullah (1980-) and her brutal, beautiful debut collection Seam is the perfect example of work that made my jaw gape open as soon as I laid eyes on the page.


“Dhaka Nocturne”

I admit that when the falling hour
begins to husk the sky free of its
saffroning light, I reach for anyone

willing to wrap his good arm tight
around me for as long as the ribboned
darkness allows. Who wants, after all,

to be seen too clearly? Still, the heart
trusts, climbs back down the old
mango tree outside the bar to marvel

at the gymnast tornadoing forward,
electrifying the air with her soaring
body on the TV, even as the friend

beside me asks, But how could you
sleep in the same room as your dead
sister’s things? Once, a man I loved

told me I was stunning. It terrified
me, the way grief still can, risen
above us in the bar, seeking its own

body. I tell her the body, exhausted,
does what it must, as it did then,
sutured itself to his, said, I’ll be

yours forever, with all its secretive
creases turning steam in this heat-
flustered city, wet fever of the nape

of my neck chiffoned beneath his
lips galaxying across it. I do not tell
her about the shelves of porcelain-

cheeked dolls tarnished lavender by
falling light, the ebony abundance
of my mother’s hair varnished blue

as she slid my sister’s child’s clothes
off the old wooden hangers, then back
on—but what else is mine, if not all

this strange beauty? Look, I said to him,
running my own hands down myself:
night-rinsed anaglyph of muscle

and bone held fast against everything
yet to plunder this or any twilight’s
nameless and numinous unfurling.