Meaning: stranger, one without a home and thus, deserving of pity. Also: westerner.

on visits back your english sticks to everything.
your own auntie calls you ghareeb. stranger

in your family’s house, you: runaway dog turned wild.
like your little cousin who pops gum & wears bras now: a stranger.

black grass swaying in the field, glint of gold in her nose.
they say it so often, it must be your name now, stranger.

when’d the west set in your bones? you survive
each winter like you were made for snow, a stranger

to each ancestor who lights your past. your parents,
dead, never taught you their language—stranger

to everything that tries to bring you home. a silver sun
& blood-soaked leaves, everything a little strange

& a little the same—like the hump of a deer on the busy
road, headless, chest propped up as the cars fly by. strange

no one bats an eye. you should pray but you’re a bad muslim
everyone says. the Qur’an you memorized turns stranger

in your mouth, sand that quakes your throat. gag & ache
even your body wants nothing to do with you, stranger.

how many poems must you write to convince yourself
you have a family? everyone leaves & you end up the stranger.

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?  
 

I Don't Know What Will Kill Us First: The Race War or What We've Done to the Earth

so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;

your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted

the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment

was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it

so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.

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