Fatimah Asghar

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Fatimah Asghar is a poet, filmmaker, educator and performer.  Her work has appeared in many journals, including  POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, BuzzFeed Reader, The Margins, The Offing, Academy of American Poets and many others.  Her work has been featured on new outlets like PBS, NPR, Time, Teen Vogue, Huffington Post, and others. In 2011 she created a spoken word poetry group in Bosnia and Herzegovina called REFLEKS while on a Fulbright studying theater in post-genocidal countries. She is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and a Kundiman Fellow. She is the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-Nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. In 2017 she was awarded the Ruth Lily and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and was featured on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Her debut book of poems, If They Come For Us, was released One World/ Random House, August 2018. Along with Safia Elhillo, she is the editor of Halal If You Hear Me, an anthology that celebrates Muslim writers who are also women, queer, gender nonconforming and/or trans. Source

Old Country (Edited)

Old Country Buffet, where our family

went on the days we saved enough money.

Everyone was in a good mood, even Ullu—

our uncle who never smiled or took off his coat

 

& dyed his hair black every two weeks

so we couldn’t tell how old he was. We marched

single file towards the gigantic red lettering

across the gravel parking lot to announce

 

our arrival. We, children carrying our rectangle 

backpacks brimming with homework, calculators

& Lisa Frank trapper keepers, for we knew this was a day

without escape, spread out across all the booths

 

possible while our family ate & ate & snuck

food into the Tupperware they smuggled in

& no matter how we begged & whined

or the waitresses yelled or threatened to charge

 

us more money we weren’t leaving 

until my greedy family had their fill.

O, Old Country! The only place

we could get dessert & eat as much of it

 

as we wanted before our actual meal.

The only place we didn’t have to eat all

the meat on our plates or else we were accused

of being wasteful, told our husbands

 

would have as many pimples as rice we left behind.

Here, our family reveled in the American 

way of waste, manifest destinied our way

through the mac & cheese, & green bean

 

casseroles, mythical foods we had only

heard about on TV where American 

children rolled their eyes in disgust. Here

we learned how to say I too have had meat loaf

 

& hate it, evidence we could bring back

to the lunch table as we guessed

what the other kids ate as they scoffed

at our biriyani. Here, the adults told

 

us if we didn’t like the strawberry shortcake

we could eat the ice cream or jello we could

get a whole plate just to try a bite

to turn up our noses & that was fine.

 

Here we loosened the drawstrings

on our shalwaars & gained ten pounds.

Here we arrived at the beginning of lunch

hour & stayed until dinner approached

 

until they made us leave. Here we learned

how to be American & say:

we got the money

we’re here to stay.

Published:

2018

Length:

Regular

Literary Movements:

Contemporary

Anthology Years:

2022

Themes:

Family

Food

Immigration

Poems of Place

Literary Devices:

Anthimeria

the replacement of one part of speech for another, often referred to as a “functional shift.”

Caesura

a break between words within a metrical foot

Enjambment

a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem

Quatrain

A stanza made of four lines.

Varied syntax

diverse sentence structure