Yr Not Exotic, but Once Ya Wanted to Be

Tarfia Faizullah


Whenever folks discuss finding themselves,
ya get kinda giggly. Maybe b/c ya found
yrself considering yr Armenian love
who preferred ya in both corset and bindi,
and it was for her ya begrudgingly waxed
yr jungle-scabbard    …    Ya find yrself in the fret
of reclamation via musks all motherland-misty
(coconut milk, marine accord, mimosa tree). Last
weekend, ya found yrself in leggings to argue
again with yr Dominican love over the tender
texture of Texas tamales. Ya not-so-secretly want
to find yrself in a garden kissing a risk-
taking party until ya feel as good as a half-price
smoothie. Somehow, identity never finds ya
kohl-eyed in magenta blooms photographed
by a mixed-race admirer on a humid evening,
mostly b/c yr too busy galaxy-gazing
to be anyone’s so-fair-and-lovely. Was that
a touch of pride or self-pity? Probably. But ya
just can’t deal with another stranger’s surprise
at yr love of both tequila and mango lassis.
Does yr Guyanese love truly expect ya to replace
the chicken & fish in yr diet with mushrooms
that arbitrarily? You’re so black, yr told pretty
frequently. Ya don’t know what to make of it:
humanity. Ever find yrself advised by
Bangladeshi Brooklynites? Like they know
yr bae Poetry! Loves, let’s stop projecting
insecurities. But maybe it’s like when ya tried
to be cheerful after a famous poet called ya Debbie
Downer for mentioning the hurricanes in yr other
sovereignty? Never don’t find yrself coring
what music can be cleaved from a dull language
into an anomalous nationality. A personal theory:
we all behave oddly around fat titties. Now here
Poetry comes to say she wants to be an ode to what is
muddy. OK, baby. Here’s to dank difficult borders,
gardens of ingrown perennials, fractured fins,
the wings of inner menageries. Here’s to our own
empires of dirt — no one’s pruned-perfumed colonies
of exotic beauty. This is not a poem! Or is it
an efficient exercise in surviving hysteria?



Republished from Poetry Foundation with the permission of the poet.