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What They’re Looking for in a Girl

Afshan Shafi

The following poem, accompanied by Wahab Jaffer’s ink drawings, was first published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017). Curated for the website by Alainah Aamir—our Digital Guest Editor (May 2023). Afshan Shafi is Poetry Editor at The Aleph Review.

As there are shades of yellow,

there are shades of girlhood-

some require a buttercup stain

from kink of pelt to lyre of foot,

some deem it best for

her profile to

be milky and frankly,


some require a ‘dangerous mouth’

like Fitzgerald had

(according to Hemingway)

some insist that

the lean, reticulated

exclamations of her torso be legible,

others prefer

to traverse

an inexclamatory

phrase of sinew;

some require

a smooth gush of nape,

(a spit of land not meekly traded)

some require the sleek and wondrous

textile of her to be not unlike

a kind of molasses.

where one desires the july concertina

of her bruised and rambunctious aspect,

more than the manner of her manner

another insists on her

invocation to be bird-like

and not entirely amiable

some gloat over the tempered clime

of her hands,

those raspberry groves

some require their memory of her

to be oxidized, eerie

fixed in cameo of

fairest blue

some must fetch her

from her green and russet alcove

reading Chekhov

her eyes penitential

a scrubbed chin,

a half cup of copper

a shoulder with bliss on its curve

a knee of ash

flesh of

trodden moths

Ink drawing by Wahab Jaffer

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1 Comment

Tāriq Malik
Tāriq Malik
May 25, 2023

Loved the turn of phrase and the succulent imagery. '...some require a smooth gush of nape', and '...some insist that the lean, reticulated exclamations of her torso be legible'. Rich, nourishing stuff. Thank you Afshan and The Aleph Review for this gem.

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