From “Oil”

By Fatimah Asghar

We got sent home early
& no one knew why. I think we

are at war! I yelled to my sister
knapsacks ringing

against our backs. I copy
-catted from Frances

who whispered it when the teachers
got silent. Can’t blame

me for taking a good idea.
I collect words where I find them.

I’m young & no one around
knows where my parents are from.
A map on our wall & I circle all
the places I want to be. My auntie,
not-blood but could be,
runs the oil through my scalp.
Her fingers play the strands of my hair.
The house smells like badam.
My uncle, not-blood but could be,
soaks them in a bowl of water.
My auntie says my people might
be Afghani. I draw a ship on the map.
I write Afghani under its hull. I count
all the oceans, blood & not-blood,
all the people I could be,
the whole map, my mirror.

The kids at school ask me where I’m from & I have no answer.

I’m a silent girl, a rig ready to blow. The towers fell two weeks

ago & I can’t say blow out loud or everyone will hate me.

They all make English their own, say that’s the bomb.

I know that word’s not meant for me but I collect words

where I find them. I practice at night, the crater

it makes of my mouth. I whisper it to my sheets,


a little symphony, so round. I look up & make sure no one heard.