Self-Portrait As a Slinky

Self-Portrait As a Slinky

It’s true I wanted
to be beautiful before
authentic. Say the word
exotic. Say minority—

a coiled, dark curl
a finger might wrap
itself in—the long
staircase, and I was

the momentum
of metal springs
descending down
and down—say tension.

The long staircase,
and I was a stacked series
of spheres fingertipped
again into motion—say

taut, like a child
who must please her
parents but doesn’t
know how—a curl pulled

thin—I wanted to be
a reckoning, to gather
into each day’s pale
hands—that helpless

lurching forward
in the dark—another
soaked black ringlet,
that sudden halting—

— Tarfia Faizullah, author of Seam

This poem is offered as part of our October theme: Games

T. S. Poetry

The poems in this captivating collection weave beauty with violence, the personal with the historic as they recount the harrowing experiences of the two hundred thousand female victims of rape and torture at the hands of the Pakistani army during the 1971 Liberation War. As the child of Bangladeshi immigrants, the poet in turn explores her own losses, as well as the complexities of bearing witness to the atrocities these war heroines endured.

Throughout the volume, the narrator endeavors to bridge generational and cultural gaps even as the victims recount the horror of grief and personal loss. As we read, we discover the profound yet fragile seam that unites the fields, rivers, and prisons of the 1971 war with the poet’s modern-day hotel, or the tragic death of a loved one with the holocaust of a nation.

Moving from West Texas to Dubai, from Virginia to remote villages in Bangladesh and back again, the narrator calls on the legacies of Willa Cather, César Vallejo, Tomas Tranströmer, and Paul Celan to give voice to the voiceless. Fierce yet loving, devastating and magical at once, Seam is a testament to the lingering potency of memory and the bravery of a nation’s victims.

Winner, Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, 2014

Winner, Binghamton University Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, 2015



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