Women Poetry: Fayeza Hasnat, USA

Exclusive: Women Poetry: Edited by Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy
Fayeza Hasnat

SNAKES FOR HAIR

I’d take snakes for hair 
Any night and any day, 
I’d knot them and braid them, 
I’d toss them in the air, 
They’d dance and they’d hiss
They’d dangle, they’d kiss
You and you and you and them.

I wish I had snakes for limbs 
Snakes for breasts and for le vagin.
Venomous fangs, not pangs of fear
I wish I had—when they entered me—
Snake-locks, snake-limbs, snaked body. 

Because I’d have my snake-long hair, 
I wouldn’t flinch and I wouldn’t care
About you and you and you or them.
I’d undo my snakes and I would hiss
My limbs and breasts and all four lips—
My hundred thousand strands of hair
I’d untwist and wait—unlived, undead.
***


GRANDMA MEDUSA

Back home, when I was a child, I once saw Medusa, 
But I didn’t know who she was. Grandma
Was what I used to call her. A petit Bengali woman
She was sweet, loving, happy, and always in the run
Cooking, praying, caring,  always doing something.

In that inert house, she was a gerund— the ‘ing’
That held us glued. But once in a while she’d lose it 
And Grandpa had to beat her and chain her to the bed. 
“Don’t let her trickery fool you,” Grandpa always said,
“A crazy witch that she is, she’ll mess with your head.”

“Once the new moon’s gone, she’ll come out of her phase,”
My aunts tried to soothe me, in their cold and frightened voice.
We’d sit by the door and wait while Grandma stayed enchained.

“The moon looks like a pendant! It’ll look good on you!” 
Untie me, my Darlings,” she begged us, “I’ll grab the moon for you.”
I was a sucker for moon; so I freed her. She ran to the tamarind tree
And she climbed straight up and jumped for the moon, while I 
An excited little girl, stood watching, voiceless, and sans eyes.

She’d given me her gift—my grandma. Her Medusa snakes
Run my blood like madness, but I have no tree to ascend. 
***


Fayeza Hasanat is a Bangladeshi-American author, academic, and translator. Her fiction, nonfiction, and translation works are nationally and internationally published in numerous journals and anthologies. Her debut short story collection The Bird Catcher and Other stories was simultaneously published from the US and Bangladesh. Hasnat’s academic books and translation works have been published by renowned publishers both at home and abroad. Her most notable translation works are: Nawab Faizunnesa’s RupJalal and Neelima Ibrahim’s war reportage, A War Heroine, I Speak. Her most recent academic work is Wounded Memories: the Written World of the War Heroines. 

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