‘First memory of English: my father orders spaghetti from a waitress. / Foreign flowers blossom in his mouth and I’m spellbound in Urdu. // On Friday afternoons, cars spill across a bleached suburb. / Not far from the mosque, look! Crooked lines of devout Urdu.’
February 21, 2017
Our bookshelves were bare. No Faulkner, not even Faiz in Urdu.
Film songs lit each room, darling couplets of Hindi-Urdu.
Coney Island Avenue stretches with dollar stores and auto shops.
Before towers fell, it was Little Pakistan, Brooklyn’s spine of Urdu.
First memory of English: my father orders spaghetti from a waitress.
Foreign flowers blossom in his mouth and I’m spellbound in Urdu.
On Friday afternoons, cars spill across a bleached suburb.
Not far from the mosque, look! Crooked lines of devout Urdu.
My mother sent her mother news in thin blue envelopes.
Laundromats and sugar cubes crossed oceans in handwritten Urdu.
How many more drones will we strike? In the name of precision
A thousand wounds lie buried in courtyards of Pashto and Urdu.
Every morning I wake to my lover’s pale shoulders, green eyes.
I see home in her, even though there is not a trace of Urdu.
Dear Shahid, they ask me, too: what does Sahar mean?
Depends on tongue and accent. Magic in Arabic, dawn in Urdu.
A CONVERSATION WITH AMMI
On a Wednesday afternoon, over a cup of tea
my voice on the phone: how do you cook eggplant
with green chillies and onion seeds? In a city
three hours ahead, I empty out the fridge.
Dinner guests arrive at seven. Hold on, a UPS delivery
at the door. November feels abnormally warm –
swollen sunlight rubs down the windows.
In your version, I wear my hair long
happily married to a man with soft brown hands.
I never fall in love with a woman.