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Father Tongue: Two Poems by Fatima Malik

I stand before you, though, O Allah, the daughter // to Abraham’s father. Here is my sacrifice: / hold him close, as You did with Ismael.

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
April 27, 2021

Father Tongue

I know the word for father in Seraiki is pio

I know the word for daughter in Seraiki is dhi

I didn’t know the word for language in Seraiki is zaban

You cannot look up Seraiki words online

Now he is silent and I have no one to teach me

I don’t know the word for silent in Seraiki


Once a year, my father took me to see his family. We’d reach
my ancestral village just in time for lunch. After greeting his

parents — who’d cry each time — Abu rolled up his sleeves 
and strode into the courtyard. Lifting the hutch and scattering 

panicked chickens, he would grab the closest one and unceremoniously 
slaughter it. In this killing, my otherwise gentle father was clear-eyed 

and unsentimental. Until his father was alive, Abu traveled to the village 
in time to offer the Eid prayers. After dada died, Abu began praying 

at his own mosque, also offering his sacrifice at home on Eid-ul-Azha. My dad 
would ask if I wanted ‘a portion,’ (as an adult, I too must perform the sacrifice) 

and I would say, yes, breezily adding that I would pay him 
when I saw him next, never remembering. He would add 

a portion for his parents, alternating between his mother and father 
the last two years since my dadi died. Last year passed in a haze. This 

feast of the sacrifice, there seems more clarity. There is no father, 
there is no feast. I stand before you, though, O Allah, the daughter 

to Abraham’s father. Here is my sacrifice: 
hold him close, as You did with Ismael.