After Kate Daniels
I see my not-me on the news.
She who weds for her sweet sixteen
mosquito bites for breasts, she who
still has baby cheeks in her marriage
photos. My not-khaala’s decorating
her hands with medhi, a plate of mathai
bursting at her feet. My not-khalu’s
dance, pound palm to drum to stave
off monsoons. My not-abbu checks
the sheets for her blood the morning
after, brandishes the satin like a flag
like his pride, singing through the town.
& there’s my not-me again, the one
I could’ve been, drowned in a burka
on her way to the market, fingering
mangos through gloves, nihari
steaming for hours at the home shared
with my not-husbands family.
My not-me’s eyes, brilliant & green
decorating the pages of western
magazines. Eyes that earn a white man
awards & showings, but eyes that stay
niqaabed in the mountains, while my not-me
coats her sons’ mouths with salt to trick
their bellies into not-hunger.
My not-me celebrating Diwali, lights
gathered at the base of her door
my not-me Indian & able to return home
& not worry about the talibaan, my not-me
worshipping a host of different gods
calling all their names, my not tongue
not foreign, not accented, not strange.
My not-me not worried about talibaan
but still worried about men.
My not-me’s body on the bus, divided
among all the passengers hands.
Abdomen gutted & left on a road to die.
My not-me still. Alone. & not me.
Today the whole city is dressed in white
snow coating the cars, it’s own layer of white.
Resistance: the no written in the footsteps on white.
When I return home there is a boy waiting, white
we talk about what color our kids might be, white
No, I say. They won’t be able to pass as white
but we see the pictures of my nephews, white
the way they shorten their names, white
& their mom is gone, ran away from her white
boy. In america, how easy it is to make white
of everything. To erase until all there is is white.
I say no a thousand times but all I hear is white
making my name a terrorist. It’s easier to be white.
& don’t I want my children to have an easy life, white?
No, I say to the world. But I wake up in a blizzard. White.
These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #31. Get your copy here.
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 chapbook After was released on YesYes Books fall of 2015.