Saturday, November 3, 2012

I have been walking lightly, living on the surface of things, thinking that if I look hard enough I’ll understand what’s underneath. I've imagined it, often vividly, but I received only fragments of meaning. But to really see and know I have to tread firmly, confident that when I fall (because we all fall) it will not be into nothingness. It is the unknown that frightens, yes, but there is always something in the darkness. If I open my arms and welcome that something like a new friend, I will succeed. I will be safe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Poem about Love

I never sought love from other men,
just from my mother,
and from my father to a lesser extent.
Love has always meant duty,
you see,
my mom was past thirty
and within a month she was married
and within a year I was born.
Love is sacrifice, I’m told.
But love is the sacrifice
of responsibility
as I’ve come to see.

is a strange tree
and mine was uprooted,
shipped overseas.
I was just a seedling, but
my mother never forgot
how broken branches hurt
like broken bones,
and never fully healed.
When the heart is in the motherland
it doesn’t make music for children.
But I still put my heart in my mother’s hands,
and the cold that seeped in has been hard to let go.
I grew on tears,
mine and hers,
withered inside, and didn’t care for the sky anymore.
Now that I’m older,
(still a child, always her child)
and my heart pumps more blue than warmth,
heartstrings stretched and frozen
to any melodies--
I have to learn sacrifice all over again.
Learn to take responsibility for my heart,
to dance closer to the flames
even if I risk getting burned.

Loving is learned.

There were lessons in vulnerability
that I avoided,
so that only I could hurt myself.
Scar tissue layered like bark around my heart,
climbed like vines up the inside of my arms.
My dad taught me that if I never expect anything from anyone,
I will never be disappointed.
But I always expected too much from myself
and made it hard to let go
of the barbed wire keeping the world out
and the hurt in.

I tend to ruin a good thing before I even begin,
too afraid to know love, to melt the ice away
and drown in the coming tide.

I could never let anyone in
past iron walls, rusted
to resemble warm blood from a distance.

Red isn’t always the color of love, and
actions don’t always translate
And why does it have to be either/or
when actions and words are the arteries and veins
of the same feelings?

There are definitions and there are realities,
and love is ever-shifting.

Its conditionality put a price
on something I didn’t think I could afford.
The indifference
to my tears dried them up and left
an empty well.
I could drop pennies
or diamonds
but still only hear the same hollow echo of
four chambers empty of a
four-letter word.

All I wanted
was for them to read the love between lines and dashes.
But our tongues always caught
the wrong syllables,
and we never learned the common language.

Parents model the roles we expect to see and be,

And when I say that men are incapable of loving,
I only speak from what I believe,
And when I say I will be lonely,
I speak from a deep-centered inadequacy.

Every now and then
I spiral in self-doubt,
am astonished when I feel a pulse
under thin skin.
Some feelings are still foreign
and fall apart in the absence of an interpreter.

I try to learn this language all over again,
start with a pen--
write a thousand ways
to know love.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

not quite a wallflower

sounds too pretty a word
for someone so plain.
i think i would look at a flower on the wall;
though small and faded
it still possesses more elegance than,
say, a leaf
and remains much more appealing than
a fly.

Tongue tied

Sounds try to outrun each other, hurtle over teeth and tumble out my mouth with no parting kiss, no time for my tongue to untangle itself. Deep breath. Try again.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I was once a dreamer

I was once a dreamer,
I would land only to dance up and away again,
even then only on tip-toe.
Last time, I fell;
my dreams had slipped
unnoticed as I lingered too long on the ground
and on my trip down
I tried to grasp at them
but found only clouds
and hazy grey.
The music, the colors
had faded
and taken my wings away.

Land is less kind,
less vast,
and while I wile my time
strangely weighted to the ground
wondering if my wings will grow back,
my dreams are now tethered lightly to sleep.
I don’t sleep much.

I don’t speak much either.
Putting feelings into sound onto paper
gives me only rough translations.
I skip the process of tongues and go
straight to the fingers
wrapped around this pen.
These fingers that when splayed
resemble the wings I lost.
If I close my eyes
and the dark and the quiet lie with me,
I can turn these writings back into wings.

But stillness grows tired of waiting
and leaves me restless on the ground.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

words slip away

words don’t feel
like words anymore
whispered over and over
until consonants unravel
and curl into shapes
on my tongue that slide around and
tie themselves up
into nothing new.

so it was that i knew what
i was saying
before i added more
now sounds splinter into
pieces of meaninglessness.
left with phonemes
that won’t morph
saying the same nothings


Sunday, May 27, 2012


Strange heart
beats centrally
spreading blood
and love to the
There are times
when I
have to hold my
hand to my chest,
close my eyes and
imagine you there.

Frail ribs like
papier-mâché fingers
do little to protect
sand and glass
from slipping through.
However way I move
they grind and cut
into you.

And sometimes I forget;
you play your strange drum
at frequencies too low 
for my ears to register.
It's during these days
I find a tethered peace
one syllable, one smell,
one sideways glance away
from sound waves 
crashing back again.

I can't tell
whether I am captive or embraced
by the familiar roar and crush,
until exhausted,
my limbs crumple
saturated with saltwater
evaporated (having been left to dry);
the weight of the sea in my eyes
just a vision.
Once I blink,
All is right. 



The feelings come in waves
like a dark tide
bearing me under.
I can't stand
or understand
when the saltwater swell
wells up at my throat
and breaks against my eyes.
I tumble
like a glass bottle,
the green ripple of my body
unable to melt into
atmosphere, but
ready to crack and dash
against seafloor and coral,
bits of me lost in the sand
to mix in other people's wounds.

is what I am,
what I let myself remain
so I say,
if someone could just lift me out
of the undertow--
but I'd never let them.
The pull is too strong,
I say,
I'll take your message
but I won't take you;
move along, or
I'll push you away.
When the glass around my heart
chips away,
secretly I hope they end up in someone's eye
because I never could

Small and unassuming;
[not small enough,
not enough]

But the sea means no malice
though I antagonize it.
It is as unaffected as
everything else.
The glass bottle, the poetry,
the tears that sink into it
like drops among infinity--
are exactly that.


Smoke signals

Cigarette smoke makes me gag
[except when I take a drag];
deep lungful,
Your breath mingles with
a recent mint
and mine,
curl like fingers in an embrace
warm, but aloof all the same.
The gap remains.

When I slip away,
it's because I am overwhelmed,
need fresh air that doesn't remind me of you.
The hot glow of your eyes
leaves dancing lights dizzy in my head;
burns your
cigarette kiss bright red into my retina.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Poem to God

How do I write
poems to God
who knows
my sentiments before they bleed
imperfect onto paper?
This ink, so insincere
as pen prays to page
after page
trying to say
what this heart feels.

Self-consciously I craft a stanza,
dance around slanted rhymes
and everytime
the words are left wanting.
And as I try to fill the space
between here and there
spinning and stitching thoughts
this poem is still about me.

How do I write a poem to God--
praise and pray instead of
pray for praise?
When the heart runs murky dark,
what good are these watery scratches
before they wash away with the dust?


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chance (un)Encounters (II)

Out of the corner of my eye,
head tilted just so,
I can glimpse your black jacket,
hand in jean pocket
as if everything is fine and
my breath isn’t caught.
Just a little
skipped beat, and
your feet are already moving away.

I stay
where I am a dying ember
waiting for you to breathe life into,
give back the breath you took with you
when you walked past,
the wind in your aftermath
blew me out,
blew me away

From you.
But I stay,
too scared and proud to run after you,
tell myself you might come back.

Even dying flames dance before they fade.


©Farhana Jahan

Chance (un)Encounters (I)

come stand by me.
doubt the sun from your window and
because by chance i came prepared,
but you thought you’d risk it,
let me offer you a small reprieve.

i’ll raise my elbow
try to stand a little taller,
your hunched warm breath
won’t stop slanting rain from the left,
but will make it (quite) bearable.

we, an island in the season
of downcast eyes
as if raindrops will be
misinterpreted as tears,
look away.

sound is swallowed
by more sound.
we only have
brief glances,
infinite allusions.

across the million refractive dreams
on their way down to pave moments in
the grand sequence

the light will change

into green, into get away, into
we go separately, but,
just for a moment,
won’t you

come stand with me.


©Farhana Jahan