Dhaka Nocturne

By Tarfia Faizullah

Featured Image: “Tête-á-Tête” by Edvard Munch

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 asked, 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, rising
above us in the bar, seeking its own

body. I told her the body, exhausted,
does what it must, as it does now,
suturing itself to his, saying, I’ll be

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

of my neck chiffoning beneath his
lips galaxying across it. I could have
told 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 clothes off
the old wooden hangers then back on—
but what else is mine, if not all this

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

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

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of two poetry collections, Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf, 2018) and Seam (SIU, 2014). Born in Brooklyn, NY to Bangladeshi immigrants and raised in Texas, Tarfia currently lives in Dallas.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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