Muslim Apologies

I inherited the world’s problems when I was born Hussain.

My grandfather didn’t mean to, but when he whispered the Shahada in my ear, the eardrum grew from infancy to rainstick.

I cover my hair in scorn.

I fashion a staircase from books other than the Qur’an to see over and beyond the wall.
On the other side, tree limbs are weathered by four seasons.

I absorbed the knives that were sunk in my back and requested tattoo artists use them to brand my temple with permanent love.

I bit the hooks that pulled me from deep sea and left my tongue pruned at the surface.

I am too Indian for Pakistan, too Pakistani for India, too brown for America, too American for refugees.

I am too spiritual for atheists, too cynical for agnostics.

I am too haram for halal, too halal for haram, and if you believe the words hell and heaven, there is nothing but the sound of inhalation.

I am a choke. A bellow. An exhalation.

I am a preacher of ideals and a practicer of failures:
the abuse I could not stop
the boy I could not save
the women whose gossip I could not evade
the in-laws I could not win over
the man I could not fairly love
the dead I could not bathe
the coffins I could not carry
the animals I could not feed
the shelter I could not afford
the money I could not count
the air I could not clean
the body I could not starve into nothing
the skin I could not scrub to shine
the mouth I could not shut.

The patches on the quilt I weave say

With adulthood has come illiteracy in Arabic.

The only prayer I remember is the one that comes each night I ask my dead for permission to laugh.

I used to be moved by sunsets, but now even they are an everyday dimming.

Since I was born, I have been waiting and waiting to sight the moon for myself.


Published in Gloom Cupboard.


A Disquieting Understanding of Life