Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tell me...

This poem was published in the anthology 'Cover to Cover: A Collection of Poetry' by Forward Poetry, 2013

Tell me
have you ever thought
to stop birds
and ask
how things go beyond the sky
where is it that they head to
and what is it that they eye?

And has it ever crossed your mind
to crouch down to flowers
and ask
how it tastes to be clean
with nothing to be judged for
and no sin to redeem?

And have you ever stopped 
and giggled
at all the earth's residents
on a globe of green and blue
living every day like the next
looking for more to chew?

Does it make you stop
and smile
that mothers wipe dirty noses
babies clutch on to your finger
and that somewhere, someone
spills their brain out on paper
changes the world
once in a while?

And does it make you stop
and sigh
that bullies hate on fat kids
rural villages, billion-dollar-companies shun
and that somewhere, someone
lies behind bars
for daring to think
for a crime not done?

How often do you stop
and wonder
when it'll be your turn to leave
and how
and what they'll have to say
about the mark you left behind
about the tapestry that took 
your whole life to weave? 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Day I May Have Caused a Divorce

It all started with a lunar eclipse. If the moon had chosen another day to walk behind our planet, none of this would have happened.

There I was, savouring a deep-dish, sizzling-hot pizza slice in the company of some of my favourite people. We bit into our heavenly meals, not saying anything besides necessary 'Pass me that ketchup' or 'Give me tissue', because there were things more important than conversation to be taken care of. The soft clink of forks and knives. The smell of ripe tomato sauce and melting mozzarella. Small smiles and happy tummies.

Then came distraction in the form of a ringtone. Everyone looked my way in annoyance. How can something as mundane as a phone ringing be allowed in this heavenly setting?

It was my mother. ''There's a lunar eclipse happening, and it's only going to last a few minutes". Eclipses are not just astronomical events for Muslims. They mean a special prayer. Thankfully, I've already done my ablution at home, and a prayer room is within walking distance in any shopping mall in Dubai, so off I go. The prayer room is empty except for another lady. I stand next to her, and once I'm done and in sitting position, she turns to look at me.

She is wearing a black abaya and sheila, has a plain face with small features, probably in her late-thirties. When she speaks, her dialect gives away that she's Emirati.
'Do you know English?' she asks in Arabic. Her accent is strong and un-urban-like.
'Yeah,' I smile at her. Serious expression in return.
A leather bag sits propped before her. She searches inside, finally extracting a mobile phone, and busies herself with its buttons for a while.

I look around, wondering who she will make me speak to.
'Read this message for me, please'
I look at the screen. The message is transliterated. It is Arabic in English letters.
'This is Arabic'
'I know, I can't read the English letters'
'Uh..okay' I clear my throat:

'Hey habibi' I recite. I pause and quickly read the message in my head, feeling myself turning crimson.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I look up at her. Her eyes are on me, and there is a fire lighting in there.
'Go on,' she barks at me.
The next few seconds are possibly the most awkward in my life. The message is clearly from a woman addressed to her lover, saying she missed him, asking why he hadn't called her, and recounting very intimate moments from their last meeting. I stop after every sentence hoping she'd tell me that was enough, but each time she urges me on, something in the order and fierce tone that tells me I have no other option.

'What's her name?' she whispers, after I have finished reading it and showed her there was no more.
'It doesn't's just a number'
'Okay, thank you, darling,' she says. Her face expression has softened and she looks like she is going to have a breakdown any minute.

I don't move. Neither does she. We just sit there in our praying positions, until a small voice says, 'It's my husband's phone.'

The immensity of what I have just done sinks in.
'It must be a wrong number. I got a very creepy text message once like that!' Which is a lie, I have never read anything like that before but I am in a desperate position.
She snorts. 'No, I've been suspicious for long. This is just confirmation.'
I don't know what to say so I just sit there wishing I can take back time.
'You know, some people aren't made of flesh and blood like you and I.'

And with that, she grabs her bag and rises, leaving me alone with my guilt in the room.

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