the uber I step into is halal.
at least the driver tells me so.
he says, this window is halal
this door is halal, this floor;
& we both laugh, the prayer
hung in the rearview
a minaret that calls my knees,
the closest to masjid
I have been in years.
tonight this ride is the umma
I choose, the driver’s hoot
a dervish that whirls my smile.
I am 1% halal, 99% shaitan
at least my devil is honest.
khuda ka shukr, at least my devil
is honest: my skirt a little too short
my collarbones, ridges
for lovers’ fingers to find flight.
I never dress right for any
weather, my arms a gathering of bumps
all my aunties’ shame ice
the blood below my inked veins.
my knees wobble on the edge
of what I should be & what I am.
at the end of my sight I dream a world
brimming with my contradictions.
when I turn to look it disappears.
my devil quiet the days I wrap my hair
in a bouquet. but tonight, mashallah,
we are safe from his gaze in this rushed
chariot. I lace the backseat with my haram.
I trace an altar in my god’s name.
From If They Come For Us: Poems (One World/ Random House, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Fatimah Asghar. Used with the permission of the poet.
An absence declares
its blunt self. I can’t believe the extent
of my luck, heard twice, like violets
in a bath of lukewarm water.
The city was my father’s though none
of its sweetness appears here living
before you. A strong instrument.
A blowing on the hands
and neck. A curtain almost open.
I inherited a stiff collar sewn
against loveliness where once
we must have walked freely into
the city square and gathered
there like an intention. Two lips bloomed
on my mother’s cheek. I felt
a heavenly peace. Here, the marker you
might have waited for: ancient
dough, rolled and fried. These days
the lyric’s sentiment floats
away from me. Like a river someone
forgets to bless. Memory, to memory,
to the dirt path opening
again in a dream. I have not been back
for so many years. I walk the distance
in my mind, the margins flowing by
like so much foreign water.
Copyright © 2018 Wendy Xu. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.