what do I do with the boy
who snuck his way inside
me on my childhood playground?

the day other kids shoved
my body into dirt & christened me
he appeared, boy, wicked

feral, swallowing my stride.
the boy who grows my beard
& slaps my face when I wax

my mustache. he was there too
the day on Ben’s couch, wearing
my skirt, ranking the girls

in class. again, his legs slamming
concrete, my chest heaving
when we ran from cops

the night they busted the river party
again when I smashed the jellyfish
into the sand & grinded it down

to a pink useless pulp. together
we watched it throb, open & close
begging for wet. he was there.

I have a boy inside me & I don’t know
how to tell people. like when
that man held me down & we said no.

& my boy, my lovely boy
he clawed & bit & cried just like
we were back on the dirt playground

scraped wrists & steady pounding
his eyes wide, until
he stopped making a sound.

WWE

Here’s your auntie, in her best gold-threaded shalwaar
kameez, made small by this land of american men.

Everyday she prays. Rolls attah & pounds the keema
at night watches the bodies of these glistening men.

Big and muscular, neck full of veins, bulging in the pen.
Her eyes kajaled & wide, glued to sweaty american men.

She smiles as guilty as a bride without blood, her love
of this new country, cold snow & naked american men.

Stop living in a soap opera” yells her husband, fresh
from work, demanding his dinner: american. Men

take & take & yet you idolize them still, watch
your auntie as she builds her silent altar to them—

her knees fold on the rundown mattress, a prayer to WWE
Her tasbeeh & TV: the only things she puts before her husband. 

She covers bruises & never lets us eat leftovers: a good wife.
It’s something in their nature: what america does to men.

They can’t touch anyone without teeth & spit
unless one strips the other of their human skin.

Even now, you don’t get it. But whenever it’s on you watch
them snarl like mad dogs in a cage—these american men.

Now that you’re older your auntie calls to say he hit
her again, that this didn’t happen before he became american. 

You know its true & try to help, but what can you do?
You, little Fatimah, who still worships him?  
 

If They Come For Us

these are my people & I find
them on the street & shadow
through any wild all wild
my people my people
a dance of strangers in my blood
the old woman’s sari dissolving to wind
bindi a new moon on her forehead
I claim her my kin & sew
the star of her to my breast
the toddler dangling from stroller
hair a fountain of dandelion seed
at the bakery I claim them too
the Sikh uncle at the airport
who apologizes for the pat
down the Muslim man who abandons
his car at the traffic light drops
to his knees at the call of the Azan
& the Muslim man who drinks
good whiskey at the start of maghrib
the lone khala at the park
pairing her kurta with crocs
my people my people I can’t be lost
when I see you my compass
is brown & gold & blood
my compass a Muslim teenager
snapback & high-tops gracing
the subway platform
Mashallah I claim them all
my country is made
in my people’s image
if they come for you they
come for me too in the dead
of winter a flock of
aunties step out on the sand
their dupattas turn to ocean
a colony of uncles grind their palms
& a thousand jasmines bell the air
my people I follow you like constellations
we hear glass smashing the street
& the nights opening dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire my people my people
the long years we’ve survived the long
years yet to come I see you map
my sky the light your lantern long
ahead & I follow I follow

Kal

Allah, you gave us a language
where yesterday & tomorrow
are the same word. Kal.

A spell cast with the entire
mouth. Back of the throat
to teeth. Tomorrow means I might

have her forever. Yesterday means
I say goodbye, again.
Kal means they are the same.

I know you can bend time.
I am merely asking for what
is mine. Give me my mother for no

other reason than I deserve her.
If yesterday & tomorrow are the same
pluck the flower of my mother’s body

from the soil. Kal means I’m in the crib,
eyelashes wet as she looks over me.
Kal means I’m on the bed,

crawling away from her, my father
back from work. Kal means she’s
dancing at my wedding not-yet come.

Kal means she’s oiling my hair
before the first day of school. Kal
means I wake to her strange voice

in the kitchen. Kal means
she’s holding my unborn baby
in her arms, helping me pick a name.