Shabnam’s eyes are like cat’s tails, flicking,
curling around the nearest pieces of the world
and holding them there.
Today, per the usual, she is scheming
how to avoid getting married,
though she is already engaged, and has been
since eleventh grade, since they jeweled her feet with toe rings
and scrubbed her face with lemon juice
to make her skin lighter;
ever since they began to remove her from herself.
She asks me to tell her about a boy I’ve loved
and I tell her I don’t think that’s ever happened.
“Then tell me about a boy you wish you’d loved.”
And I tell her it’s not that easy to put into words,
it’s hard to pin it down, the phantasmagoric almost:
before contexts shifted, before airplanes,
before doubt achingly grew like wisdom teeth,
before he meant the right amount of ambiguity
for me to be able to leave.
I open my mouth but nothing comes out.
“See,” she says with tired eyes,
the only time I have heard her whisper.
“I do not have an ounce of that.
I do not turn to emeralds when I think his name.”