how I learned that jasmine blooms at night

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my name is fatimah
she whispered

i was a queen
or just as good as

i am over your shoulder
i am admiring your fan…

such workmanship!
every piercing exact
in dimension and placement

a priceless object

you have it on your wall
to gaze at too

it is right

such a work of art
completely unsullied

my own fans were of course
the finest which could be found
yet not so fine as this

they were not pristine

my servants
were always handling the
soft, pale woods
with their horrible hands

no matter how creative i got
about punishing them

it was like a game to me

i had a cushion
thicker than yours —
yours is only two fingers deep
hardly a cushion (sniff) at all —
between myself and the cold
marble floors

but my favorite maidservant
slept wrapped in only a sheet
at my feet

very close to my feet

in case they needed
warming in the night

i never allowed those feet
to be washed
till morning…

you are telling me,
showing me,
this fan was made in a —
what is the word for it?

dozens, hundreds
thousands at a time!
cheaply and instantly

this one came to you
without previous ownership
you say, you show me,
for two dollars —
a tiny amount in your time and place,

you are not fooled
as are many among you
to think these masterpieces
are created
without suffering

in the dignity
of private


our workmen
at least saw the sun
breathed fresh air
listened to birdsong
talked to passing children
and friends

had little gardens of their own
ate enough
(unless there was drought)
slept in sweet silence
and the perfume
of night blossoming jasmine

your fellahin
slave in luridly lit metal
boxes, behind
screaming machinery
breathing poison air
unable to reach out to each other
on any level

completely cut off
from any shred, any hint
of beauty or ease

told even
when they may and may not
drop their arms
for a moment’s rest

how horrible…

even i was not so inventive!

one out of four of them
are hungry
all year, every year

we did not have so many hungry
so long as there was good harvest
for any of us
we did not have any

we were not such fools
as to starve
our own labor

look at the oldest
photographs of my people:
we fed one another, at least

you are no less cruel than we,
only more impersonal

(the additional cruelty
of mechanistic indifference)…

are you going
to write down my words?


you must rest now
you say

it is right

after all
you’ve done
all of your own work today

fetching and carrying
the cooking, cleaning
and still managed
to write a poem —

i’m impressed!


no, there’ll be no need
for me to come back

here’s an imprint
just take that

write it later …


… fellahin

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Ana Daksina

About the Author: Ana Daksina

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