Instructions for Driving at Night
After Tarfia Faizullah
He pulled me over. Third time this week. First time
at night. His sirens screamed red. The sky a ripe
melon. The sky a girl on the street driving
into the open mouth of dark. He swatted
my face with his baton. He swatted my lips
with the butt end of his flashlight. He wielded
the baton like a finger to touch my breasts.
He used his flashlight to get a better look.
His car was full. His colleagues joined in. I fell
against the parking brake, the car rolled forward.
I fell and he used his baton. I remember
I love marionettes. I love how a string
is pulled and its puppet jerks to life. I did
not apologize to him for making him
pull me over. The girls on their hot pink bikes
and matching helmets cycled faster past us.
Girls breaking away from our bloodletting. Girls
tossing their bikes onto grass behind the white
picket fence, and running inside. I fell when
he pulled me out of the car. I was too dark
for them to rape me. He thought my skin was a
contagion. His friends joined in, rendered my
body fruit salad. My face cherry compote.
My pomegranate heart exploded open.
I kept watch for Hades and Persephone.
After a while I closed my eyes. I saw stars
being born, the big bang that comes before light
travels. I knew not to speak. I knew not to
cry. I knew it would get worse. But I cried out.
I cried out for my mother, hundreds of miles
away. I cried for hundreds of mothers, ones
on the other side of those picket fences.
I cried for my friends but I could no longer
remember their names. I cried though all I could
see were their faces, milky outlines, makings
of constellations. Stars already dead but
still shining holy, night after night. Flashlights
moving the traffic along, his breath a spray
of petrol before the fire starts and looting
begins. He wished aloud for my death. Someone
called an ambulance so I lived to hear
on the six o’clock news that I was a slut
with a car, resisting arrest, deserving
the prizes I received from his giving arms.
My mother did not cry but asked if I had
apologized, kept my head down low, staring
at the mat under my sandaled feet. I said
no and through her sudden tears, she smiled.
Devi S. Laskar is a native of Chapel Hill, N.C. She holds an MFA from Columbia University in New York. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer and artist. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, Fairy Tale Review, Noyo River Review and The Raleigh Review, which nominated her for Best New Poets 2016. She is an alumna of both TheOpEdProject and VONA/Voices, and poetry workshops at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Finishing Line Press published the first of two poetry chapbooks, Gas & Food, No Lodging in March 2017, and Anastasia Maps in December 2017. She now lives in California.