3 Poems After Parveen Shakir


Poem for Forugh Farrokhzad

This day the chief jurist has admitted
That the crop of sinners is ripe once again
Go tell the Shah’s council
All tyrants await
With baited breath
His Highness’ verdict
So they can serve in holy reverence – To carry out the command
To choose who to behead who to topple off their pedestal
Whose hands to sever, whose tongue to slice out
Whose livelihood is to be discontinued
Where to entice the hungry, with food they cannot have
Where to distribute pardons
Where to proclaim the edicts
Of death, by stoning
How many pre-pubescent girls,
Are to be gang-raped by generals (on bloodied bed sheets)

Which petty criminals are to be posted
At the Plaza Square staring at its ever flowing fountains
How many innocents to drag to the gallows and the hangman’s noose
Your Highness may command as he wills!
I beseech this much
That the Royal Statements be kept
Confined to Private Conversation
There’ll be legal hurdles!




The people around me
Seem to speak
A totally alien tongue
That Wavelength
Whereby I was connected to them
Has entered another dimension
Either my language has become obsolete
Or their definitions have changed
Their grammars do not contain
The glossaries of the paths
Upon which my words take me
I am dumb to the sanctity of words and cannot hold converse
But with the solitude of walls or my own shadow
I am terrified of the moment
When I will entirely dissolve and disappear into myself
Having forgotten that Frequency
Upon which I used to soliloquize
And am left repeating to myself
"May day, May day"




This scenic evening of ours
Mingled with the perfume
Of your garment
With the burgeoning of my vision
Will last some mere moments

Just now
A star will unwind itself upon the horizon
Just then
Its winking will beckon to your heart
A memory
A tale of separation
Something not done
An unfulfilled dream
Something not said
To someone!

We should have met
In an age of gracefulness
In another heaven
In a different country!



Denial Is a Cavefish

Peculiar mother
species of the North
European cave.

From freshwater
lineage, now trans-
parent and eyeless.

Is she mutated
and cryptic?
Or just adaptive?

She swims
eternally forward
in the pool

pitch black,
and she never
looks back.


Fraktur: A House Blessing

The afterward, a kind
of commemoration

dinner. Grief pulling
out his empty chair

from table’s head.
The soiled linen

of what is said and done
lifted from us.

Carcass of dead bird
just a bone cage

staging the center
plate. Picked clean

of innards and dark heart,
his quiet, broken neck

already squirreled away
for our soup the next day.

~Tammy Robacker~



Ex Post Facto

At which time
He was appointed

Acting head
Of the doll hospital

To govern the broken
Celluloid committee

Of ill, nude dollies and all
Their turtle-mark parts.

They winked once for, Yes.
They winked twice for, Forget.

Before that
He played a doctor.

And before that,
A patient, we suspect.



On Watching a Snobby Woman Jog

She’s as skinny as a pencil
pounding out the pavement,
resounding pitter-patter
multiplied in time, a test.

Not just any pencil,
but a Waterman
or Faber-Castell,
exquisite appearance
on the exterior

with hair the eraser of white gold
and coal black stripes to match
evil slivered eyes.

The fine lead, her sharp look
I’d like to hone down to nothing,

watch the curled shavings
drop in street gutters

like an old Number 2.



On Satisfaction

I crave Bavarian cream,
a lingering tongue-lick
swirl of ecstasy,
around the edge
without the calories

but you say
it might cause cancer

serve me custard instead
a watered-down, letdown drip
of sticky disappointment

like the tears that pool wetness
beneath my pillow
when shower steam
fills the room,

your voice a tenor
singing Pavarotti
while my fingers
finish what you started.



Body Surfing

Violate me, O Beach, your waves yawning
like an apathetic teen. Defibrillate me, open

my heart on a table of sand. Call on your tide
to strip me bare as I lay there at your feet.

Let erosion sink in while spume foams
bubbles at the mouth of your shore, for I

am like Ariel seeking clear water, seeking
clarity so I may find a prince swimming beneath

my cinctured waist. Wave to me, waste me away
on a gulp, swallow me, ingest me, Oh Beach, the gulf

of Mexico where I drown chips in salsa and dream
your lips at tip of my thighs. Do that to me now.




You don’t know what something is until it’s smashed between your fingers.

Crushed ponderosa pine smells of citrus and turpentine; I am sour with yesterdays.
Night after night I dream someone stands at the window,
tapping to be let in. I am always

            the fool. I open.

Fistful of hair. Knife to the gut. The thing that scares most is not being able

            to scream myself

awake. Even in the throes of the nightmare I did not intend to
tear at the walls of the throat, but I’ll admit, I sometimes
look down to find my mother’s paws
folded in my lap. Is a leopard raised by goats

            a leopard

or a goat? Perhaps the only way to know is to let it go hungry.

It was just a dream, I tell myself. Not real like this blanket or this light or this empty
room. No one is looming at the window. No one has followed me home.
Still I can’t shake it. I see ellipses everywhere. I tell myself there are many wrongs in the world that eclipse anything I have done. A plane went missing. A house caught fire. A

            baby swallowed

a balloon. I am reminded of these things by the early women. They watch the news.
They remind me not to trust the moon, not to take the long way home
when I’m alone. I want to tell them

            it is I who can’t be trusted.

Oh, she wouldn’t hurt a fly!
But the contrary is carved in skin. Locked in the bathroom with a kitchen knife:

            violence against self is still violence.

Anyway, it’s a lie. I can still remember the tiny shudder
as my fingers pulled translucent wings from the body of the fly, the tightening in my gut
as I placed the wings atop a pile of wings, and the body atop a pile of bodies
and how neither of those piles had anything at all to do with what I wanted.




Loose jeans
and ten perfect blisters
we learned it through the grapevine.

We learned the blame game with a pair of loaded dice.
Dad says don't speak:
keep to your stitches.
Is he Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum today?
Mom says one's the man she married,
the other was hiding inside,
biding his time, hour by hour
fecund, fermented history

no one can guess
the bitter root
of his wisdom.


Heavy scraping won't suffice.
So much of what has happened
requires a root canal,
like the time I found my mom's fears
safely stashed among my own
untitled document.

Our nightly ritual
involved a circle of wolves.
One by one we stood in the clearing,

today I lied
today I was lied to
today you lied to me

We learned aggression by default.
We learned shame in our fingertips,
hurling it at each other before it could spread
to our feet, slow us,
leave us vulnerable
to clenching jaws,
sharp teeth.

We learned the slow burn of conviction
and howled, not like wolves
in unison, mouths to the moon,
but agape:
shit-flinging apes.


We blistered to the beat,
the Lord's eternal drum:

you are not enough
you are not enough
you are not enough

wrote it on our skin
wrote it by gagging
wrote it in love
wrote it with conviction
wrote it until we breathed it

bent down and prayed
to our new god.


I built an effigy of sticks.
I gave it a crown of sharpened
pencils, a robe of velvety
sighs. Encrusted with turquoise
eyes, the cloudiest
city in their depths, it held a
scepter that spewed
my mother’s raven
hair on every surface.
I prayed to the figure, opaque
as the obsidian beak
of the bird, not knowing what
it wanted, or if it heard,
and offered blood
sacrifices, white limbs
of my youth,
deafening myself
to the frenzied bleating.
The figure remained mute,
a sullen god, immovable.
It showed no
mercy. No
love. No
light. One night
I struck a match.
At last, a voice
crackling, a light that danced
unknowable shapes
on the opposite wall.
Spectacular strangeways
of flicker and guise.
I died. I died. In my rhapsody
I was infinite, but then again,
all too soon I watched the fire
darken into ash, an amorphous pile:
black, weightless, without
meaning. I raised my voice,
pitched my plea to the smoke,
the swirling cloud, the unsettled dust.
A shadow clung
to the carpet, looked at me
with my own face;
laughed, exposing
my own crooked teeth;
yawned, bored shitless
with my inability
to stop praying
to whatever lived
within me, even lack.
The yawn slackened
into a gape,
a foul, immovable mouth
with a scorched tongue
of sticks. I gave it
a crown. I bowed it way down.



formation sans stamen

it’s a hunch of a bunch of grapes from my womb. 
tiny demons called future & him/her/it –whatever. 
rush to the place where they fall & make wine
            drink, be merry –trample a seed if it escapes.
no one is ready for this orgy.

tiptoe the eggshells of a uterus
            & ready the belly for the pinch of fingerings.

beanstalk, eggplant, carrot sprouts prick
            count on fingers or carving sticks.

trickling down the hallway, a heart or a beast
–mark territory & imitate living mass massive movement.
yarn revives a sewing disaster of a body dead or dying
–thread hearts like dolls like lungs like trees.

            mine is the glory of a house called womb.