Solmaz Sharif: Customs

Sharif’s poems are simple yet beyond my comprehension. I had to read her collection twice to understand some of her works including “Social Skills Training,” “He, Too,” and “Patronage.” I don’t quite understand “Without Which,” in which she uses lots of closing brackets (“]]”). I would love to audit her class if I have the opportunity. Here’s her exchange with an officer in “He, Too”:

Upon my return to the US,
he asks my occupation. Teacher.

What do you teach?

I hate poetry, the officer says,
I only like writing
where you can make an argument.

Anything he asks, I must answer.
This, too, he likes.

I don’t tell him
he will be in a poem
where the argument will be


I place him here, puffy,
pink, ringed in plexi, pleased

with his own wit and spittle.
Saving the argument
I am let in

I am let in until