Published on Academy of American Poets (

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

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

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

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

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

petroleum offices of the
British. Then, revolution—



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

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


Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif  is the author of Customs (Graywolf, 2022) and Look (Graywolf, 2016). She is the recipient of fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation.

Date Published: 2019-03-30

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