Back to Issue Fourteen.




In the mornings I peel off my sadness
& hang it up to dry. I walk throughout

the day with my organs out
as the mosquitos orbit my blood.

I watch a petal bloom into a skirt of pink
& think of how I waited for my first period

for years & the morning the red stain
rippled in the toilet. How I played football

with the boys in the school park
& let my moustache grow longer

than anyone in my class
& isn’t that a type of girlhood

too? In my sex dreams a penis swings
between my legs, a pendulum or clock

tower puncturing my days.  I watch
myself destroy the bodies of others.

& my wetness blooms across the sheets.
Maybe this is why I wake up sad.

Longing for my other body only to rise,
drowned in an echo of its silhouette.

Mother, where are you? How would
you have taught me to be a woman?

A man? Can you help me? Each day
without you I pile questions

& whisper them to the soil,
your new body & the grass laughs

in my face. Sometimes I laugh
along & for a moment forget

I was talking to you. Sometimes
I let you go & my body is fully mine.

Fully alive, dancing, boy-girl
feet pounding into the earth.

Not the graveyard it pretends
to be. Sometimes, I come home full

brimming with the hours of the day.
The fault from my sudden joy,

my forgetting, glowing guilty on my skin.
I put my grief back on. I’m not used

to being happy. Like how I’m not used
to high-heeled shoes. Or too many rings.

But, please, know I am not complaining.
Don’t take from me my loneliness.

I promise, my small joy is not goodbye.


ways i am tired



how many times has someone killed
my name before meeting me?

my own lover bleeds out asghar
with a knife, cuts the seeds

from the pepper & doesn’t worry
if it will continue to grow.

a seedless hari mirch. it’s getting
harder for me to eat spicy food

& I pretend I don’t know why.
all my life I’ve been trying to remember

who I am. all my life I’ve been erasing
myself to make seats at the table

for everyone else. how can I demand
more from the world if I can’t even

ask for my name in love?


on the train another white girl
compliments my eyelashes

& then starts plumping on mascara.
she preens & preens until they are three

times the size they once were, looks
up at me & smiles.

can’t we be pretty without being theirs?

when I start to cry she angles her body
away from me & pulls out her compact

mirror, which says conquer.


I hate being called by my name
when I’m getting fucked.

each lover I’ve had who’s laid
it out to rot & calls themself sexy.

the carcass of my name clings
between their teeth like old

meat. it haunts the entire room
all night, keeping me

awake. no one else can smell it.


I read about the white poet
who took a Chinese name

& can’t move for an hour.
I read about the Syrian orphans

being made every minute
& weep into the floor.

I remember walking the souks
of Aleppo at night & how everyone

smiled. how a man gifted
me a bar of soap that is still

unopened because I thought it smelled
too silky to be wasted on my skin.

I wonder where he is now.
the white women in my timeline

think I’m racist because I write
about cultural appropriation.

why can’t we have that too?
somewhere, the girl is still riding

the train, plumping her eyelashes
& peering into a mirror that tells

her to conquer. I can’t get out
of bed & my lover doesn’t understand

why. no one knows the ways
in which I am tired, my dead name

on everyone’s breath.

Fatimah Asghar is a poet and performer based in Chicago. She has been published in many journals, including Poetry, Gulf Coast, The Margins, and The Paris-American. She is a writer and a teaching artist, and is a Kundiman Fellow and a member of the Dark Noise Collective.

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