A Favorite Poem (Issue #16)

Greetings, bloggers and poets!

Welcome to this month’s “A Favorite Poem” issue. Today, I’ll be sharing with you a recent discovery that has since touched me in both uncertain and certain ways.

What do I mean by this? In other words, this poem by Bangladeshi-American poet Tarfia Faizullah still remains a mystery to me, although with each read I seem to understand it a bit more. I encourage you to read it for yourself:

The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For (by Tarfia Faizullah)

I saw then the white-eyed man
leaning in to see if I was ready

yet to go where he has been waiting
to take me. I saw then the gnawing

sounds my faith has been making
and I saw too that the shape it sings

in is the color of cast-iron mountains
I drove so long to find I forgot I had

been looking for them, for the you
I once knew and the you that was born

waiting for me to find you. I have been
twisting and turning across these lifetimes

where forgetting me is what you do
so you don’t have to look at yourself. I saw

that I would drown in a creek carved out
of a field our incarnations forged the first path

through to those mountains. I invited you to stroll
with me there again for the first time, to pause

and sprawl in the grass while I read to you
the poem you hadn’t known you’d been waiting

to hear. I read until you finally slept
and all your jagged syntaxes softened into rest.

You’re always driving so far from me towards
the me I worry, without you, is eternity. I lay there,

awake, keeping watch while you snored.
I waited, as I always seem to, for you

to wake up and come back to me.

I admit, I did not completely understand this poem at all when I first read it. On the surface level, it appears that the speaker is addressing a lover, who is away from the speaker physically and emotionally and that the speaker herself is patiently waiting for the lover to return.

However, from having been trained to think critically, as well as to read between the lines from my poetry courses back in college, believing that the “you” in the poem is the speaker’s lover is a bit too superficial of an interpretation. That said, I re-read it another couple of times before thinking that the “you” might be instead the “faith” that the speaker mentions in the third stanza. While I’m aware that there’s a gap in my logic (the speaker calls faith “it” which might not be the same as “you”), the reason why I want to argue this is because “faith,” while an abstract object, can be personified here, perhaps as, literally, a religious conviction that the speaker had lost and is waiting to come back to on its own, or a spiritual one within the speaker herself.

On the other hand, this “you” could also be a metaphor for the “poem” that the speaker describes reading in the tenth stanza. Again, there are holes to this logic, but the way I see it, it’s a self-reference work about a poem that the speaker struggles to write about; how she copes with it is by ambling through images of “cast-iron mountains” and “a creek carved out/
of a field our incarnations” to find a way to make a good poem come alive. She even tries to read other poems for inspiration, as seen in the lines “while I read to you/the poem you hadn’t known you’d been waiting/to hear.” This sense of unexpectedness in reading the poem demonstrates the still-nascent quality of the poem the speaker is attempting to write, but soon after finds her stride, as the “jagged syntaxes” of her earlier drafts “softened into rest,” or into a work that she feels satisfied with. For all I know, this poem could be about writer’s block.

I’ve only focused on the “you” in Faizullah’s poem so far, and I’m sure more can be said about it, along with its vivid, almost-surreal imagery. However, to make sure this post doesn’t run on for too long, I’ll stop here and let you find your own interpretations for this rich, multi-layered poem.

…and of course, enjoy it! 🙂

— The Finicky Cynic

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One thought on “A Favorite Poem (Issue #16)

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