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Poem-a-Day: "Now What" by Solmaz Sharif

About this Poem 

“‘Now what’ is a habitual text message I send to friends at various times in the day. Malaise. Helplessness. In writing this, I’m thinking about how redress of grievance does not happen without collective pressure behind it; that this codified democratic right, if left to its own devices, can be a self-laundering system for the U.S.; and how there is a sometimes seemingly invisible restriction placed upon our speech. So, syllabics: order for the sake of order. So, absence: the invitation to write a new line ourselves.”
—Solmaz Sharif

Now What

And so I sat at a tall table
in an Ohio hotel,
eating delivery:
cheese bread

with garlic butter, only it was
not butter, but partially
hydrogenated soy
bean oil

and regular soybean oil and it
came in a little tub like
creamer that’s also not
dairy.

America in 2019
means a poem will have to
contain dairy that is,
in fact,

not dairy. On Instagram: a man
has bought a ten foot by four
foot photo of a bridge
he lives

beside, bridge he can see just outside
his window, window which serves
as a ten foot by four
foot frame.

My materialist mind, I can’t
shake it. Within a perfect
little tub of garlic
butter,

a relief of workers, of sickles,
fields of soy. We were tanners
pushed to the edge of the
city

once, by the stench, the bubble of vats
of flesh and loosening skin,
back when the city pulled,
leather

bucket by leather bucket, its own
water from wells. Then we worked
the cafeterias
at the

petroleum offices of the
British. Then, revolution—

Simple.

Copyright © 2019 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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

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

 

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’

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—