I forget to eat. Sometimes I even forget to breathe.

—DJ Keshav Jiwani, San Francisco 2003. Waiting for his asylum
    application to override his deportation order.

1. Karachi 1978 - 1985

When stones smash against the apartment walls I gather
Mummy’s scarves ­– brilliant red flecked with gold I set
the needle carefully down Asha Bhosle’s voice high and delicate drowns
the curses I dance like the film stars dance
like the myths Swirl scarves around my body blood
red and glistening Tabla thrums and strings
sing like kites in the wind I dance night
into dawn forget myself small boy with secrets
become Sharmila Tagore with her diamond
smile My mother and sister laugh until
tears run down their cheeks Papa looks through me through
the wall where the mob shouts and I dance harder for forgetting
forgetting who we are and where we have always
been Only this heartstring Only these heartbeats


Inside Ahmed’s room I press my hands against the cool stone floor
Boys jumbled
on the bed Porn stolen from Ahmed’s American Uncle on the TV
The man’s hands tangle in her golden hair His face the map of pleasure
Close room heavy with the funk of boys I escape and
Ahmed corners me in the vestibule Takes out his glistening
cock – Take it you want it­ – And I do
It fills my mouth sweetly Drunk
on his smell and smooth brown thighs I ride until he explodes
bitter milk in my mouth He sneers Buttons his pants Tell anyone and you
Out on the street his rough voice follows me home My throat raw
and powerful I exhale the scent of boy


After Mummy caught me pinned under the taxi driver’s dank
hulk she hit me harder and longer than any man
who had sunk his hot flesh into me My sister found her with a tava
in her hands my curled body just light and space and blood
on the kitchen floor

2. San Francisco 1997 - 2003

Here there are boys who kiss me gently on the thin skin
behind my ear Who cup me close in movie theaters and on Dolores
Park’s bright slopes When afternoon sun pulls
away the fog’s sibilance I add
muscle and flesh to each of my battered bones


The records spin like dervishes I mix
coy flutes and the high voice of my childhood
drowning in electronic pulse the blond boys and girls
with flowing skirts dance their limbs have never needed
to forget their feet firmly planted
in concrete America they dance night into dawn and I the alchemist
blend sound into light I heartbeat I glisten


The towers are burning
Penciled drawings of men who smashed their bodies into flames
flash on TV screens across America I do not look like them


In long lines we touch our pockets heavy with Pakistani
passports and visa papers long expired creased one hundred times
The immigration man’s teeth are so white I am blinded My body buzzes
florescent My mouth forms words I can hardly understand
– Gay        Hindu        Asylum        Please –
The immigration man’s hands are pink and perfect They stamp
a piece of paper and slide it across the plastic desk
into my own bitter brown hands I deportee I refuge I stumble
into misty streets Lose my way home


I forget to eat              sometimes I even forget
to breathe        let the phone ring        let me stand here        bones
disguised by fog                       unremember
myself              wait to lift into darkness disappear
into night’s thin membrane      heartbeat to still

Tamiko Beyer's poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Calyx, Crab Creek Review, Mizna, Gay and Lesbian Review, and The Drunken Boat, and is forthcoming in the anthology, Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women. She is a Kundiman Asian American Poet Fellow, and leads writing workshops for homeless LGBTQ youth through the New York Writers Coalition. Her website is www.wonderinghome.com (tamiko@wonderinghome.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761