Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

hey chotto-bhai, heard

they promoted you to first commander

of the old crew. heard


you can turn the knots back into ropes

now, that they’re with

you. as for me, i’m still fighting not to be


a djinn or hate-burnt spire.

i haven’t razored my wrists, tho,

or pilfered the pills to end


the endless clang and clamor of oilchange-


register (ka-ching! ka-ching! my girl J and i


would high-five and say

any time we saw boys we decided to confuse

into men). before you


judge, consider: before body there is nobody,

and we all begin

as small shores. ay littlest brother, heard you


tie ties by yourself

now, that out there, there’s the right one

to love, that you don’t


shake at the table as much anymore. is pink

still your favorite color?

do you eavesdrop with four ears and two


knocked knees?

listen, the ache of a sister for a brother

isn’t obvious or


absent. i swear, not all of us die at war

or in accidents.

chotto bhai, the books i left are secrets,


underlined beside

a summer-heavy pecan tree. write past all

the censors. i’ll

grab cheese-sticks, high-five you after,


tomorrow. Remember?

Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Registers of Illuminated Villages (Graywolf, 2018) and Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of a VIDA Award, a GLCA New Writers’ Award, a Milton Kessler First Book Award, Drake University Emerging Writer Award, and other honors. Her poems are published widely in periodicals and anthologies both in the United States and abroad, are translated into Persian, Chinese, Bengali, Tamil, and Spanish, have been featured at the Smithsonian, the Rubin Museum of Art, and elsewhere, and are the recipients of multiple awards, including three Pushcart Prizes, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, a Fulbright Fellowship, and other honors. In 2016, she was recognized by Harvard Law School’s Women Inspiring Change. She teaches at the University of Michigan in the Helen Zell Writers Program.