Dear Phillis Wheatley
After ‘An Hymn to the Evening’
Once, I had a boy who shared sunsets
with me on rooftops. It was our game,
who could find the best one, the most thrilling
fire escape to climb. We owned nothing, really.
A few books & some clothes, perhaps.
The beer we brought, the shop’s cheapest.
Even the mattress we slept on was rented.
The desk, ghosts of those who came before.
Phillis, we weren’t allowed the night
either, but we took it. Our bare feet against
the building’s tar, the dying sun screaming
its colored songs before it fucked the buildings.
Phillis, I must confess: I only know of nature
what others tell me. This boy, here, pacing the roof
grew up in the suburbs, a word to me that sounds
like woods & I think he must have seen
this a thousand times, the orange slow dancing
the bark of the trees, the sky ribboned purple
& trying to cling to anything that’d keep it alive:
our eyes, the streetlamps, my dangling brown
legs over the side of the building. Phillis,
I must confess: I am watching this white boy
more than I am looking at the sun, or noting
my own breath or trying to speak to you.
I read your bio yesterday. Phillis Wheatley
died, uncared for & alone. I wonder if that’s
what waits for me. A brutal sunset that no
one can tell is screaming. If I will go, uncared
& alone, my blood trying to cling to anything
promising it another breath. If I’ll finally own
the plot of earth where I am laid to rest,
if I’ll be able to call it home.
it is another life
i don’t know the name
but he still spills everywhere.
on my phone, there is no number.
there’s a plain boy at my door
i hand him back the child
the simple heartbreak
the one not mine
just a body wrapped in flesh.
i close the backdoor.
it is another life and i
re-zip the pleat of my skirt
sit on his couch
watch the condom seal into gold wrapper.
remember that it is a new day
i pluck my footsteps
& butterfly my hand
from the snow
i unwrap my name
as i move away from his house
watching his lips ripple to smile.
i am home
in another life
the rice rewinding from bowl to bag.
i am barefoot on a porch
the sliced tomatoes whole themselves
i butterfly towards a man i have just met
I un-wait for him at dinner time
surprised by how everything smells like burning.
FATIMAH ASGHAR is a nationally touring poet, photographer and performer. She created Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first Spoken Word Poetry group, REFLEKS, while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-violent contexts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in POETRY Magazine, The Paris-American, The Margins, and Gulf Coast. She is a Kundiman Fellow and a member of the Dark Noise Collective. Her chapbook After is forthcoming on YesYes Books (Fall 2015).