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