Self-Portrait Without Parent

Tarfia Faizullah

Because I have to reach for the cicatrix

of my own life:

a vein I duct-taped to the inside

of the bent lid

of a broken-into lockbox I flooded

with my own

freedoms. I kept the hems of those

porcelain angels’

feathers, as blue as the Colorado

river we never swam in

again. I kept each tooth you pliered

out of my mouth

and into a test tube as a keepsake.

I reach for your hand,

but it’s still gloved in shadow.

Who are you, really?

And where did you fling the key

to the reliquary

of yourself you never lost? Tonight,

I’m mortal: the clumsy

clink of coins falling in a glass jar,

the vein that swells

in my forehead when I laugh too loud

or cry too long.

Who gets to decide if a tooth is a curio

or a mouth missing

its bone? You asked me — again — to live —

for you. Tonight,

let me siphon the exoskeletons of these scars

that yoke us

into a bowl made of water. I am saying —

finally — no.

Because listen — the song they sing? So

faint, so distant?

It’s only you who still wants to wear it.

about the author