A. Shaikh

2021, The Boiler Prize

ASSIMILATE & FLOURISH


This is one method of queerness.

Two bodies undressing like fruit.

A wish: her palm against my palm, fingers drenched.

Picture me, my hopeful-love says on the phone, at my desk painting.

I do, ignoring the news.

Twelve days to the election and I’m girlcrushing.

I had always felt kind of tough, but now I am just a faggot.1

Forgive me, beloved, for the hours between doomsday and now.

I hunger to lick, bite, bruise.

I don’t want to be political.

In Dallas, the weather is a wet drum tune.

My mother is a poet, but without the privilege of language.

Memory and time.

Scared Sacred.

I invoke prayer in the bathtub. Look at me god, I cry out.1

I gnawsuck on the shape of my knee—Peach pits and apple seeds.

My horoscope shrieks!

Everyone I know tweets about their IUD.

I spend nights on the Am I a Lesbian? Masterdoc.

My angel-love can’t relate.

I fortunately have no interest in men with clarity

I envy her sureness, seduced by it.

Ask yourself if you can be truthfully happy, the document suggests.

With men. A man. America.

Oh crisis, she comments.

Soon we will be uninsured, unmarried, unemployed.

I remain parched after inhaling a bowl of milk.

My mother says make good choices, quiet and upset.

Older and older, I unfurl away from my old country.

Night time, I let the good dream bob in my throat—the one with my ocean-love’s dark curls soaped back.

She says my name, a foam soft syllable, a fragment.

I spoon my sticky womanwound. Numb to what cannot save me.

When two people part, it is the one who is not in love who makes the tender speeches.2

My mother hasn’t seen her mother unpixelated in four years.

I confess to my American-love: I don’t know who I am with or without you.3

I slide the fat off whatever we are.

I imagine myself shivering at the nape of her neck.

There is nothing more sexual.

Some thousand miles away from her blue state.

My passport is a hoax.

I research. Pragmatic solutions to unpragmatic problems.

The internet is a spell, my poet-love translates.

On the playground, children saw me as a citizen.

The thing is it wasn’t long ago when I was a little girl.4

Assimilate & Flourish, advertises whitehouse.gov5

I don’t know how to afford this perfume, but I guess I will have to.

I can be killed in a nightclub. I can be detained like a dog.

I listen to my mother fear monger. Straight-laced but brain out of order.

Badqueer. Goodimmigrant.

A daughter, I was made impossible.


A. Shaikh is an immigrant poet raised in the tangerine summers of Texas. She is an associate and intern for The Kenyon Review, Editor-in-Chief of Sunset Press, and an Aquarius who loves the color blue. You can find her poems in Underblong, Poets.org, and elsewhere. Her internet thoughts reside @apricotpoet.


Notes:
1 Excerpts from Inferno by Eileen Myles
2 A line by Marcel Proust
3 A lyric from could just cry thinking about you by Troye Sivan
4 A line from The Idiot by Elif Batuman
5 A phrase from what the Trump Presidency says about Immigration as found on whitehouse.gov: These reforms will advance the safety and prosperity of all Americans while helping new citizens assimilate and flourish.