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Mess Hall

By Solmaz Sharif

Your knives tip down
in the dish rack
of the replica plantation home,
you wash hands

with soaps pressed into seahorses
and scallop shells white
to match your guest towels,
and, like an escargot fork,

you have found the dimensions
small enough to break
a man--
a wet rag,

a bullet on the back of the cup
the front
like a bishop or an armless knight
of the Ku Klux Klan

the silhouette
through your nighttime window
a quartet
plays a song you admire,

outside a ring of concertina wire
circles around a small collapse.
America, ignore the window and look at your lap:
even your dinner napkins are on fire.

Added: Monday, July 7, 2014  /  Previously appeared in conjunction with Craft and Folk Art Museum's "Ehren Tool: Production or Destruction" exhibit. Used with permission.
Solmaz Sharif
Photo by: Arash Saedinia

Born in Istanbul to Iranian parents, Solmaz Sharif holds degrees from New York University and the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied and taught with June Jordan’s Poetry for the People. She is the author of the poetry collection Look (Graywolf Press, 2016), a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, jubilat, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Witness, and other publications. It has been recognized with a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, scholarships from NYU and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. The former managing director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, she has also received an NEA fellowship and a Stegner Fellowship. In 2014, Sharif was awarded a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, as well as a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship. She is currently a lecturer at Stanford University. Please visit her website.

Solmaz Sharif is a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018. Visit the festival information page for more details.

Other poems by this author