Tarfia Faizullah The streetlamp above me darkens after Jon Pineda
for this, I am grateful. This elegy doesn’t want a handful of puffed rice tossed with mustard oil and chopped chilies, but wants to understand why a firefly flickers off then on, wants another throatful or three of whiskey. This elegy is trying hard to understand how we all become corpses, but I’m trying to understand permanence, because this elegy wants to be a streetlamp dying as suddenly as a child who, in death, remains a child. Somewhere, there is a man meant for me, or maybe he is meant merely to fall asleep beside me. Across two oceans, there is a world in which I thought I could live without grief. There, I watched the hands of a leper reach with hands made of lace towards a woman who leaned into him. There, I fingered bolts of satin I never meant to buy. There, no one said her name. How to look down into the abyss without leaning forward? How to gather the morning’s flustered shadows into a river? To forget my sister was ever born? Tonight, I will
n e w
e n g l a n d
r e v i e w
watch a man I could have loved walk past, hefting another woman’s child. He won’t look at me. I won’t have wanted him to. This elegy wonders why it’s so hard to say, I always miss you. Wait, she might have said. But didn’t you want your palms to be coated in mustard oil? Did you really want to forget the damp scent of my grave?
New England Review, Vol 34, #1