The girl from high school—not my high school—had long straight hair
and a foxy face and her body, a cylinder, with slightly wider hips,
was perfect for the sheath dresses she wore.
Vee was a Circassian, famous beauties in their day, well-prized as slaves,
her mother a refugee from Turkey, never marry a Muslim, she said.
But that is not her, in the corner of the cafe, perched on the couch,
with the man who—no point describing him—he is white and a man—
they are so useless, men—this is a belief amongst a hundred thousand
misogynerds—men are useless, superficial, external, mere repositories
of ambitious semen, driven to produce and build wealth and
enact feats of strength, and if not that to rape—but the woman who isn’t Vee—
because her name was Vee—the girl in high school—not my school—my
friend’s girl—not my best friend—the girl who worshipped me—brought
signs to my It’s Academic games—told everyone I was the smartest
person she knew—-the girl I imagined as my slave, purchased from—
But it’s not that girl in the corner of the cafe. My girl, Vee—the one I never owned—
she is a foreign correspondent based in Belgrade—but this girl
I do not know—this girl is nothing—just some white man’s possession—
Oh but now I remember, Vee texted the other day and said she’d loved my book:
“I always knew you’d grow up and do something amazing.”
Naomi Kanakia is the author of two young adult novels, out from HarperTeen and Little, Brown. Her poetry has appeared in American Journal of Poetry, Antigonish, and Soundings East. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Gulf Coast, F&SF, The Indiana Review, Lightspeed, and others. She holds an MFA from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and lives in San Francisco with her wife and one year old daughter.
This poem was originally published in Vallum issue 18:1 Invisibility