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.