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Postcards to the Other Brown Girl in My Weightlifting Class by Tarfia Faizullah

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Postcards to the Other Brown Girl in My Weightlifting Class
Tarfia Faizullah

Let’s say the word
saffron out loud, say
sari—do you see me
as a slut, or a good girl?
I do not want to ask,
where are you from—
your friend beside you
is tan, freckled, pearls
at her ears, a silver
cross at her throat.


Does your mother show
you pictures of eligible
bachelors from Jaipur,
Mumbai, Canada? Does
your kitchen house unused
monuments of your mother’s
immigrant heart: packets
of mixed spices, canisters
of rice, discarded coconuts?


If I must be the hand
pressed against the window,
let there be saltwater waiting
below, docked ships for
sidewalks. Let wounds be
wounds, let the water we
sip from nozzled bottles be
gods and goddesses crashing through
each other: Vishnu, Shiva, Allah.


I want to be each mirror lining
the walls, to find you beside me,
meeting my eyes—I do not want
to give myself—I want to be stem,
stamen, petal, not blossom, not bloom—


It was raining hard. I was sitting by myself in front of a steaming bowl of ramen. It was a long week, and I’ve been struggling so much these past few months. Let me have this, I silently asked permission from the universe. Let me bite into the tonkatsu and the cucumber dipped in vinegar, let me slurp the soup and wait for it to warm my body. I am alone, and I need care, and there is no one but me to do it tonight.

Where are you from, a stranger asked, pulling up a chair. Out of all the tables. Out of all the nights. I know he was just trying to make conversation. He asked the waiter for a beer. I glanced at him, not saying anything. He nods. I nod. He moves to another table. Was it kindness?

It is almost eight in the evening. I am a brown girl in a sea of other brown girls trying to take up space. You told me last night: don’t lose yourself too much in the past. You are here now. You are loved. My mouth is full of egg noodles, and I am thinking: I am here now. I am loved.

There will be grieving, my therapist said. I will mourn all the moments when I couldn’t protect myself. It is one of the most difficult things I have had to do. But I need to let wounds be wounds.

How do you anchor yourself after a displacement. How do you sift through what others have named you and arrive at yourself whole and unplucked.

Dear self who begged the gods to keep you longer in this world, brown girl who sat at the corner table bowing before a bowl of broth, staring back at the deep yolk as if an eye: you are here, you are safe. You can grow roots.


This poem appeared in Connotation Press, 2011. Shared here with profound gratitude.


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