What This Elegy Wants

after Tarfia Faizullah

It wants to name the dead—without a name you wander lost in the sky. You
roam its deep waters blind.

Sometimes a god gives himself more than one name.

Sometimes a hundred names.

This elegy wants to see the future a hundred gods see.

I wish I hadn’t seen it, but soldiers plucked eighteen women from the protests and
took them to the museum to check for holes in their hymens. The plastic chairs
by the glass cases of ancient amulets grew sticky with sweat—

One night I went to the museum as an old woman, a reader of eyes . . . In my
palms I held their heads. In the voice of the future I read: The line of life says
you will live a long life. You will love a man who sings, you will strike a hollow
drum as he weeps, you will mother an orange tree that only grows birds, and in
the eyes of birds, you will see your eyes—


But I found no women at the museum when I went.

Stared into the eyes of men going nowhere on ships sailing nowhere.

I knew the names of no one.

Sometimes a god chooses to be no one.

Sometimes a god chooses to move nothing.

Sometimes I think I know why they did it.

Sometimes I forget.

See it is not so easy to figure out. They took them to the museum to check if
they were virgins. Why? What would it prove if they weren’t? That the
revolution was a whore?

Go check to see we didn’t rape them, said the general in his sleep.


I lived in the museum for years.

I gave up my name.

I wandered lost.

This elegy is trying hard to understand the afterlife, but I’m trying to understand
my body, and is there a way to make it half woman, half bird, so we’d all go
back to the past and leave?

Sometimes if you go all the way to the past, you’ll find it as you left it, even hear
the sound of the wind breathing through it.

I heard the sound of the wind breathing through it.

Read on . . .

An Elegy Beginning and Ending with a Mouse,” a poem by Karisma Price