School by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 2005)
This poem was inspired by the documentary “Death in Gaza”, directed by James Miller who was killed by Israeli forces during the filming of the documentary.
Three dippy little boys from Gaza
Who paid no attention to their Master
Were asked to explain
Why they had missed the train
And sneered at curricular agenda.
Hisham spoke first
Tried to wipe off the dirt
Which shrouds every face in Gaza
He said that he found
It distracting, the sound
Of a car bomb’s muted narration,
And when his friends gathered round
To plastic bag every pound
Of flesh there was to be found,
He did lend a hand
Dissed the lay of the land
To bury a man with respect.
Yasser shuffled next,
His shoes were a mess,
His eyes were tired and old,
His voice was a croak
Half stuck in his throat –
But his story, it had to be told.
He had waited all night
In umbrageous fright
For bulldozers barking their arrival;
In the morning, the house
He was born in, was tossed,
Swallowed whole then slowly disgorged –
An homage, a tribute, a recital
To decontamination masked as survival.
Abdul was the last
Dippy boy in this class,
He was nervous and spoke in a whisper
Of Kasem his fifteen year old brother.
There had been a tank,
Started out as a prank –
Reckless boys in frayed dusty slippers
One rock flung for every Palestinian blister.
The tank lurched, the tank spun,
Legs were swift, hands high-strung
Hurl a rock, curse them out,
Be a man, slash, maim, rout;
The tank reared, opened fire
Streaks of blue shot the sky
Bullets sang, bullets pierced
Kasem dropped – punctured, seared.
The pain stung, he felt dazed,
Tears were hot on Abdul’s face;
His dad shoved him aside:
“Martyrs’ kin never cry.
Bind the head with a band –
White on white, lifeless, bland,
Write his name on the wall
Describe his sacrifice to all.
No wail, no moan, no chant –
Honored soul, heavenly rank”
Abdul shuddered to recreate
Kasem’s cold sticky face;
Yasser’s brain was still awake
With panic sleep would quietly slake;
Hisham’s gaze stayed glued to his Master –
No reprimand, no harangue, a reminder:
“Back to work, please recite the next stanza,
Youthful dreams of martyrdom in Gaza”.
Shill for Bush by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 2005)
I wrote this poem to get out of the doldrums after Bush was elected for a second term.
Don’t spill the beans –
Shill for Bush,
Sell your soul and save your tush.
The word is not justice
Or logic for that matter,
It’s the spin stupid –
That Rove guy’s like buttah!
So how bad can it be
To privatize Social Security –
If the poor can’t pick stocks
Faith based charities are tops.
They all goofed off in school
So minimum wage is cool;
They could’ve gone to Yale
And bought the Rangers at a sale.
With the estate tax gone
They can now die in peace;
If life was living hell
At least death will be a tease.
Their daughters will be safe
And certainly more fertile –
Pro-life vernacular’s the rave
And gay marriage is on trial.
Civil rights were extreme,
The sixties too damn pert –
The Patriot Act will redeem
White man’s discomfort.
Shill for Bush, please,
Tis a far better cause –
Why be trite liberal sleaze,
Why lie there, comatose?
Join the war on terror –
Kill foreigners in their own countries,
Join the Christian front
And ban Janet Jackson’s boobies,
Drill in Alaska,
Log in National Parks;
Clean air’s too expensive –
Power plants must never starve.
If the deficit’s a-growing
Don’t despair, don’t sulk, don’t balk –
Lower taxes for the rich
Will prevail and conquer all.
Your life will be better,
No, it shall be divine
If Dick Cheney’s Haliburton
Rebuilds Iraq and Palestine.
Just relax, get over it –
So what if Kerry tanked,
Bush got his mandate
We deserve to be spanked.
The Immigrant by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 2007)
Based on an idea in Kiran Desai’s novel, “The Inheritance of Loss”, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, page 268: “And what if he continued on here? What would happen? Would he, like Harish-Harry, manufacture a fake version of himself and using what he had created as clues, understand himself backward?”
I am a box inside a box
Wrapped once, twice, three times,
My shape and hue have long been gone
I smell of moldy wine
I picked a name, all sweet and tame,
It rolls off the tongue
I am an immigrant, my friends
Resolved to soldier on
Are words ablaze and resonate
When stripped of their context?
Can I thus frame life’s arguments
With truth-perverting swell?
Am I real when I’m here
Do I exist in vain?
If no one can witness my form
What weight can I sustain?
I gather clues like pretty fruit
From those whose eyes I meet
I concentrate and obviate
Doubts reeking of defeat
What is pure and what is fake
And what is straight and true
Can I chew on absolutes
And let myth be manna dew?
The signs are tenuous and vague
Everything is borderline
I shall rethink, not retrograde
And collage myself in time.
How Ridiculous by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 2008)
Dedicated to all those Pakistani-Americans who support Martial Law in Pakistan because Pakistanis can’t “handle” democracy.
How ridiculous to sit astride this cushioned luxury,
Dress in silks, bathe in milk, drive nimble Mercedes,
Be free to vote and save your goat – lap up democracy,
When back at home it’s gone to hell, but that’s ok you see
Pakistanis deserve the stick and tear gas even more
They don’t know what is good for them and voting is a bore
The Military is what they need, even if they disagree
Musharraf is the antidote to all populist disease
The activists and journalists should stick to their routine
The judges too should shut their trap rather than vent their spleen
Who are they to pontificate the true meaning of respect
The Army is their Santa Claus, the War on Terror is the best!
Pakistanis are too juvenile, they can’t stomach democracy –
We, hyphenated Americans, have a gift for clarity.
It is a pretty nifty feat to skip town and move up
Those Desis who’ve been left behind just have to suck it up
How ridiculous to think we can be better than our home
We may be called American but Pakistan is in our bones
Much smart ass verbosity is strained from self-hatred –
Maybe such pea-brained arrogance needs a hit upside the head!
A MOMENT by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 2010)
inspired by a moment of peace and quiet, during a hike on la mina trail, el yunque rainforest, puerto rico, february 2010.
i stand still, gently, silently
in measured quietude,
concentrated sharply on diffusion –
transport to another state,
another aspect, another day.
a voluptuous breeze slings by:
touching, caressing, inviting,
blending in lazy sunny ways
with little insistence on etiquette –
even-keeled and pleasant,
careless of its fluid seduction.
light enters into the cave,
a stranger in the cloud forest –
sliced, transmuted by giant fronds,
disembodied, unrepentant –
it tricks the eye, sheds bulky heat
to slyly mix with ribboned leaves.
i close my eyes and breath, deeply,
the rich verdant aroma of the forest,
the balmy breeze, the stunted heat,
the coqui’s song, shimmery and sweet,
i feel profoundly present, yet ethereal,
unbound by time-space coordinates
no mental maps, obsessive turns,
no skipping to predestined stops,
no clogged mind or arteries –
brain flushed of uneven thoughts;
clean, clean, clean and sparse
transfixed by a nascent star –
a concept, a prophesy,
caught in a fishing net, redeemed
from the spiral arms of galaxies,
the sheer folds of dusty dreams,
instinct a vestigial muscle no more
preens the feisty notion, attentively.
ah, i can breathe again,
yes i can truly breathe:
each gulp of air, squeeze of the lung,
each rise and fall, crest and trough,
timed to sweet perfection –
life is mysterious, magnificent.
connectedness, that weathered word;
brainwave to beating heart to ligament,
wind to tree, root to leaf, rich scented soil
to restless deeds and grounded feet –
absolved, absorbed and softly grieved,
maternal womb to earthy tomb.
connectedness, as sweet as cake,
muddies the water of time’s parade
the stagnant mix of past and present
holds court with future’s regal arc –
time dwells in synchronous bent,
a mobius strip of dawn and dusk.
if silence is the medium of poesie
then let me be fully soundless today
let me stand still in muted humility,
and partake of this soulful solitude
let me be one with the forest’s gravity,
i close my eyes to capture a moment.
Le Lever du Soleil by Mara Ahmed (Copyright 1983)
i won an international poetry competition organized by the government of turkey with this poem, when i was a kid. i was invited to turkey as a state guest for a week.
Dans les pays etablis de ce monde
Bien des saisons ont progressivement passees
La moisson a quelques fois ete blonde
Et presque autant de fois endommagee
Ainsi va l’histoire d’un pays d’aujourd’hui
Qui tomba dans la palme de desolation
Y lutta et essaya en vain d’en sortir
Ne reussissant qu’a s’ensevelir plus a fond
L’atteinte de nombreux sommets dans son passe fier
N’avait pu l’empeche de trottiner, helas,
Vers le desastre et quant a se reconnaitre
Arrive sur la rive de l’abime qui efface
Ayant ainsi parcourru un bout de chemin
Du Sultan Magnifique et son vaste empire
Etendu de l’Euphrates a la terre des Roumains
Il etait maintenant a craindre le pire
La guerre l’arrosait de peine et de misere,
Le monde sans cesse le tournait en ridicule,
Des trois cotes les vagues railleuses des mers
N’offraient que des menaces, mais l’espoir nul
C’est alors qu’un cris dechira les airs,
Une voix sonore et retentissante
Un rayon ecarta les nuages du ciel,
Une lumiere bien que douce mais rassurante
Une main forte et solide se presenta
Prete a saisir l’indigent et l’aider
Toutes craintes s’envolaient des coeurs, leurs anciennes proies,
Des que les yeux confiants allaient s’y poser
Qui, murmurait-on, a ramene l’ete –
Le natif de Salonica, etait-ce lui?
C’etait l’adorateur de la liberte,
C’etait l’amant fidele de la patrie
Il organisa a nouveau l’armee
Pour tous it eclairci leur preci but,
Il rencontra d’impotantes autoritees
Et devant elles exposa son point de vue
Les elements qui les avaient jusqu’ici
Retenu vigoureusement a l’arriere-plan
Furent extermines et aneantis
Debarrassant leur chemin d’empechement
La constitution, la langue, les vetements
Et les idees furent occidentalises,
L’industrie sur la voie vers le development,
Le commerce devait par consequence avancer
Les sciences modernes commencerent a s’enseigner
La culture ancienne redecouverte jadis –
On y remarque de nombreux gratte-ciels et
Y contemple les arts du passe fleurir
Aujoud’hui les champs si dorent au soleil
La recolte enivre les dieux de son parfums,
La terre genereuse partout veille
Que ses enfants puissent gouter de tous vins
Chaque jour s’eveille et l’echelon est franchi
De l’echelle qui grimpe toujours plus haut
Bien que loin mais non j’usqu’a l’infinie,
Ceux qui esperent ne compte point les pas qu’il faut
Des visages fletris mais sourires enfantins,
Les petits s’y elevent comme des roses precieuses
Tous recoivent leur part d’amour et de soin,
On germe une generation saine et heureuse
Matinale, la rosee baigne la vie en paix
Repos et tranquilite y font fortune,
La solidite et l’ordre de l’armee est
Net sous la clarte du croissant de lune
Les fleurs sont defendues d’etre cueillies,
Le reflet du printemps mais egalement
Leurs petales exposent les couleurs de poesie –
La memoire encore fidele a l’avide temps
Ce pays, melange de beaute et de richesse,
D’anciennes cultures et civilisations,
A ete la tendre et puissante pretresse
Et aussi l’here aux poches sans fond
La nation faible et maladive hier
Son pere Ataturk l’eleva, l’etablie,
Le miracle qui rendit son peuple fier
De s’annoncer citoyens de la Turquie