Maryam Ghafoor is a queer Pakistani-American poet from Illinois (USA).
Her poems appear in Foundry, Barnstorm, and American Poetry Review.
She teaches English at Purdue University.

Easter, 2016

While stuck in traffic, while defending my lane
from intruding cars swerving in and out,
I saw something—like gas, like fog lifting
back into the sky as water hit the pavement.
And there it was: a semi in the middle of I-65
still smoking, the fire already gone. The truck
jackknifed against the meridian; the trailer
burned to a metal carcass.

In Pakistan, yellow tape separates a playground
from its victims. On video, I see a toddler's shoe. I see
a man's yellow teeth, his mouth opening and closing.
I see people circling Lahore's streets in their well-worn
white shalwar kameez. The ambulance-red wheel of a ride.
No one is crying. I am staring; I am conscious.
Things are burning. There is no water.
I am searching for my family's faces.

Cooper's Hawk, Still Missing


Blind, not like the forest, the tree,
the lean and the way it felt
jagged, an oak.

Not like the week after my father died,
my willful forget, my need
to erase the body.

And you, so introspectively wild,
your face bent towards a window,
the woods, a defense, the body, just a body.

You now, the Red-Shouldered Hawk
in the glass display, not like my father
still missing.


"We're missing you." My mother on the phone.
Not miss. I want those Sunday nights again,
Quran sessions with my father. Just kidding.

Learning Arabic when young, I relearn just barely
with my friend now. Look at the shapes
letters make on the page, vowels missing.

This missing hawk, it follows. Like headstone,
body underneath, soul or something else
somewhere else.

I'm done with the hadith about two women;
one gave a stray cat water and went straight
to heaven, the other let a stray starve and went to hell.

I have two cats but am forced to lie about my dog.
Let me hear the one about the girl who knelt
at the feet of her mother. Nope, wrong hadith.

The other night I thought I heard feathers ruffling,
my dog circled and circled
until she found her spot on the bed.

Don't Say Love Poem

How I snuck out
of my house at 7

that morning, off
to college, and we

picked up blended coffees
at Jeremiah Joes,

not yet knowing
our order by heart.

I drove us to Allen Park,
where we found

that kitten a year later
and hid it

inside your house.
Black and white,

we named it Bandit.
You tried

getting your little brother attached,
so your mom couldn't say no

but she did, drove it away,
and I took that

as metaphor
for the way she saw me.

But back to
the time light hit the river

in the morning,
how you didn't say

goodbye, but instead, I love you,
and I said it back and we sat there

in the car, drinking overpriced
local coffee, staring out

at that brown river neither
of us dared go in. And leaving,

for the first time afterwards,
I wasn't even sad for how full

that felt, how sure.

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