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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 10, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I suspect that worrying is a large and ongoing part of the human experience, but I also try to pretend like I don't do it. I suppose this is a poem in which I admit that I do; it turns out that what I worry over the most is being misunderstood. I'm also considering proximity, between our physical bodies and the symbols others decide they are, between history and our inheritance of it; I'm trying to complicate and expand how we are seen versus how we see ourselves. I like the idea of a speaker who picks her own symbols, in this case, a meteor: a body from outer space that becomes more and more incandescent, until her arrival into the earth's atmosphere is announced by a streak of light.”
—Tarfia Faizullah

Poem Full of Worry Ending with My Birth

I worry that my friends 
will misunderstand my silence

as a lack of love, or interest, instead
of a tent city built for my own mind,  

I worry I can no longer pretend 
enough to get through another

year of pretending I know 
that I understand time, though 

I can see my own hands; sometimes, 
I worry over how to dress in a world 

where a white woman wearing 
a scarf over her head is assumed 

to be cold, whereas with my head 
cloaked, I am an immediate symbol 

of a war folks have been fighting 
eons-deep before I was born, a meteor.  

Copyright © 2018 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf Press, 2018) and Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014). She teaches at the University of Michigan and lives in Detroit.

by this poet

poem
O, my daughter, once I was a poor boy
folding peppers into my sarong 
to walk three miles to sell, but what
can you tell me of sorrow, 
or of the courage it takes to buy
a clock instead of a palmful 
of rice to go with the goat 
we can’t afford
2
poem

I know you know
how to shame into obedience
the long chain tethering lawnmower
to fence. And in your garden
are no chrysanthemums, no hem
of lace from the headscarf
I loose for him at my choosing.
Around my throat still twines a thin line
from when, in another life, I was

poem

My sister died. He raped me. They beat me. I fell
to the floor. I didn’t. I knew children,
their smallness. Her corpse. My fingernails.
The softness of my belly, how it could
double over. It was puckered, like children,
ugly when we cry. My sister died
and was revived. Her brain burst