Fatimah Asghar

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.




rewind:                                                                        play:


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).