she wears grey
(first five poems of forty)

Nazifa Islam

1. he had a peg leg too

She married a man with one glass eye
and divorced him the next day but he
still got his green card. She weeps now
while sitting in front of her television
watching Wheel of Fortune every night.
You haven't met her yet, but her name is Rosemary.


2. the lighter was green

There is a burn mark
on Rosemary’s left wrist
and a lighter in Finn’s jacket
pocket. No one has put
two and two together.
They weren’t meant to.
Rosemary’s not going
to say a word to anyone
which is what Finn wants
even if he is choked up
with guilt—it wasn’t his idea.
Rosemary knows this, it’s what
has bought her silence.


3. now maybe you’ll understand

Rosemary broke into two pieces
at seventeen, though most everyone
didn’t notice. They let her halves
lie in the sand and grit and mud,
soaking up so much she never
wanted to know, before she went
and taped herself back together.
Sodden, she couldn’t get the tape
to really stick though and so it was
only a matter of time before she
became someone she didn’t like.
She grew fond of knives and blue
pills and boys with brown beards
who smiled crooked moonshadow
smiles at her when they were
certain she was looking right at
them. She met Finn at twenty
and didn’t try to die until almost
twenty-one. He didn’t know she
was cracked in all the wrong ways
though she felt guilty enough that
she enlightened him as soon as her
lips had stopped bleeding.


4. he wasn’t trying to lie

Rosemary is thinking about
the day the world ended—
when everything turned a pale
shade of blue and the earth
flipped itself inside out on a
dare. She remembers it like it
was yesterday—she’s not certain
it wasn’t yesterday. But when
she asks Finn to tell her the truth
about whether or not her hair
looked black under blue light
all he’ll say is he’s never seen
her before in his life.


5. it was lemonade-colored ash

Finn will grow to hate
Rosemary when enough
time has passed to cloud
his judgment. He’ll blame
her for the color of his beard
and he won’t be wrong to
hate her even if his beard
does look better cerulean.
Alice is different. Alice
burned Rosemary’s picture
last week on Tuesday before
vacuuming up the small
pile of time immemorial.
They only speak when
people are staring now.

Nazifa Islam grew up in Novi, Michigan, and has the misfortune of being born on the day in history that resulted in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination as well as the sinking of the Titanic. She has work forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, Disingenuous Twaddle and Phantom Kangaroo, and regularly updates her blog Thoughts Interjected.