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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, March 23, 2017.
About this Poem 

“That immigration policy remains about maintaining the racial hygiene of this nation and I remain among its unhygienic, that every movement, every line of my life is interrupted and violated by state-sponsored language, and that it is possible to sublimate, sometimes weakly, sometimes forcefully, this woe of being born somehow ‘wrong,’ somehow messing up the neatly categorized and performed national picture into the most glorious bird to flip and flit is what drove this poem.”
—Solmaz Sharif

Deception Story

 

Friends describe my DISPOSITION

as stoic. Like a dead fish, an ex said. DISTANCE

is a funny drug and used to make me a DISTRESSED PERSON,

one who cried in bedrooms and airports. Once I bawled so hard at the border, even the man with the stamps and holster said Don’t cry. You’ll be home soon. My DISTRIBUTION

over the globe debated and set to quota. A nation can only handle so many of me. DITCHING

class, I break into my friend’s dad’s mansion and swim in the Beverly Hills pool in a borrowed T-shirt. A brief DIVERSION.

My body breaking the chlorinated surface makes it, momentarily, my house, my DIVISION

of driveway gate and alarm codes, my dress-rehearsed DOCTRINE

of pool boys and ping pong and water delivered on the backs of sequined Sparkletts trucks. Over here, DOLLY,

an agent will call out, then pat the hair at your hot black DOME.

After explaining what she will touch, backs of the hands at the breasts and buttocks, the hand goes inside my waistband and my heart goes DORMANT.

A dead fish. The last female assist I decided to hit on. My life in the American Dream is a DOWNGRADE,

a mere DRAFT

of home. Correction: it satisfies as DRAG.

It is, snarling, what I carve of it alone.

From Look by Solmaz Sharif, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2016 by Solmaz Sharif. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.

From Look by Solmaz Sharif, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 2016 by Solmaz Sharif. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.

Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif’s first poetry collection, LOOK (Graywolf Press, 2016), was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.

by this poet

poem

Everywhere we went, I went
in pigtails
no one could see—

ribbon curled
by a scissor’s sharp edge,
the bumping our cars

undertook when hitting
those strips
along the interstate

meant to shake us
awake. Everywhere we went
horses bucking

poem

You are like a daughter
to me
—the prisoner’s
mother tells me. Meal by
meal she sets then clears. She

rinses some tablewear
the prisoner never
held, then a glass she did,
then recalls her daughter’s

mouth opening softly
to drink water on state-
run TV,

2
poem

Your knives tip down
in the dish rack
of the replica plantation home,
you wash hands

with soaps pressed into seahorses
and scallop shells white
to match your guest towels,
and, like an escargot fork,

you have found the dimensions
small enough to break
a man—