A Poem by Devi S. Laskar

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.

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