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 to slaughter?
Look at the lines Allah etched
on your own palm: you have
a big brain and a good heart,
still, you don’t use either enough!
Once, I walked through a war
beside my brother parallel
to a gray river. Why do you care
about the few damp bills
I didn’t give to our mother?
Or the clock I bought to take apart? Well,
I left that country with a palmful
of seeds I’ve thrown across
this dry, hard Texas. Allah
has blessed me with this vine
that coils upward. I care
so little for what others say, ask
your mother. That nose ring
doesn’t suit you, by the way.
Once, you were small enough
to cradle. There was a coil
in that clock made of metal . . . O,
that something so small can matter . . .
No daughter, I
don’t need a glass of water. Look,
this will grow into maatir neeche aloo.
In the spring, you see, its purple leaves
will be the size of your own palm.
In the village, there is a saying:
“Dhuniya dhari, kochu pathar paani.”
I don’t know where the clock is
or how much it’s worth! There was
not enough for kerosene . . . why
do you always ask what can’t be answered?
Copyright © 2017 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.