after Franny Choi
What a gift it was, your dick inside me. Thank you
to the man who gave generously, saw my body
as a charity. I giggle when a new man tells me
an old joke and pulls a bouquet out from the trash
like a magician. Thank you for recycling.
Man who calls me his mother’s name, expects me
to wear her hospital gown to the altar. Thank you.
Thank you, hands that smooth my hair back
as I deposit the day in their bed. I appreciate
that I’m never so ugly your eyes avert themselves.
Always a parlor room to powder the other side of the bed.
Leave a chalk outline. Leave your fingerprints
on the water glass, thank you. Woman who returns
to her wife in the morning. Fingers that fill themselves
with other breasts, thank you. I’m so grateful
for the crumbs you left in my bed. I’m licking them up
like flowers at a funeral, all the colors blooming
like a manufactured season. Thank you. I don’t know
what I would do if no one offered me a fire escape
as I set all the stairs ablaze. I’m desperate
for an exit. I’m listening for your voice. It’s amazing,
how I can slice myself so small
a tree wouldn’t grow from my core. The forest
won’t have me. I’ve begged my branches to grow. Thank you.
I, too, humble myself before the photos I sent you.
I pin my smile to my skull in someone else’s favorite updo.
I’m so lucky to be chosen, with my own face
and this same smile. All of my clothes are re-stitching
themselves to my body, I want you so bad,
thank you. You make me so wet I rust shut, thank you.
I’m so lucky that you think you’re so lucky, I’m drowning
in this pot of gold. I’m a gift peering at its own teeth.
Thank you, I crack the frames you lock me inside of.
I’m wearing your future on the wrong face. I’m so grateful
for your gun down my throat instead of something
sharper. Even the balconies shudder beneath me.
Even the scrapings claim they’re from my skin.
I want to kiss your scraps and I kiss myself instead.
Thank you. I’m so happy to be seen. I’m so grateful
to be loved. For meeting my eyes with your eyes,
for apologizing, thank you, thank you for apologizing,
please, say you’re sorry, just one last time, again.
I steal your coat in the dead of winter
and ransom back its pockets’ stones.
I defraud your knife of its edge;
your oven of its heat. I cheat.
I plagiarize your noose. I loot
your overdose for its pills. I kidnap
your children from their beds
and give them more gracious names.
With their father’s eyes, they hate me
for it. I embezzle blood from your bank
teller’s pen. I misappropriate the funds.
I withdraw more from my own account.
I run off with your wife. I marry
her when I meant to marry you instead.
THE OTHER KIDS USE THEIR HANDS
The other kids use their hands
to rain salt down on the snails
outside the church where we
don’t go to church. Our parents
rent the space out on Saturdays —
no Christ here today, no one
dying for someone else to be
forgiven. I’m not so furious
as I could be, but am I ever?
I’m furious. I’m screaming
Stop, so loud it’s another straws
tacked against the existence
of miracles that none
of the adults inside hear me
outside. You’d think you’d
be able to hear that kind
of pain — the snails, I mean,
you’d think each grain
of salt would sizzle as it
struck their fistless bodies,
their lidless eyes, unable
even to blink or look any
place safer than inward.
Can snails hear what happens
outside their shells? My
frenzied rage, the other kids
laughing, the clatter of salt.
Certainly not my brother,
gripping my hand in his and
crying so quiet next to me
none of us even noticed
when he wasn’t there at all,
ran inside the church to tug
at my mother’s sleeve
and beg her to come outside,
stop the salt, stop me,
and she did. Even after
we left, though, I couldn’t stop
telling the story the whole drive
home, over and over again,
couldn’t even buckle
my seatbelt for my hands
still shaking. Did you see,
I asked, Did you see?
Not Did you hear me?
or what my brother had said,
dragging her outside to witness
a wrong kind of worship;
whether he whispered or begged,
like a screaming snail
if a snail could scream.
Why, when she went back
and told the other adults
what happened, the parents
of no one had cared. Did you
see?, my brother’s palm
pressed against mine in the backseat,
both of them still sticky
with salt and sweat. I squeezed
too hard, and he made
a small sound, a whimper,
but I wasn’t listening,
Did you see? Did you?
Jaz Sufi (she/hers) is a mixed race Iranian-American poet and arts educator. Her work has been published or is upcoming in AGNI, PANK, Birdfeast, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is a Kundiman fellow and National Poetry Slam finalist, winner of the 2020 Yellowwood Poetry Prize, and is currently an MFA candidate and Goldwater fellow at New York University.