Wednesday, December 31, 2014

they say
home
is where the heart is


my heart
is in my country


my body
is the only country
i have ever known

Saturday, December 20, 2014

lunch at grandma's

Grandmama fusses over the low tables laden with fried fish, rice hot off the pot, humid weather clashing with spices - an alimentary assault. The fans dance in clumsy gaiety chasing off heat trailing breath, to no avail, as we continue to sweat profusely from the combination of chilli residues ringing in our ears and the unforgiving glow of midday sun.

We soak our bare hands in the flavour, skin meeting the unification of tastes, our teeth gnashing sticky rice clinging to dental corners like children playing hide and seek. I look out the window, at the small bridge arcing over the now-empty artificial pond where we used to feed the fishes with leftovers that our tiny bellies couldn't stomach. The fortress of our girlhood, the transit stop for gangly boy cousins pronouncing their manhood in makeshift pirate costumes. Each of us had made a crossing, the crossing into the realm of adult uncertainty, the crossing of leaving and returning. 

These walls have seen much of us, the house of mirth bubbling the laughter of newborns, the lower dais first christened by my parents' marriage over two decades ago, the slaughter of lambs for qurbān, the less pronounced and bloodless slaughter of daughters muffled through wet pillows at midnight when we thought no one was watching, these walls which had bared witness to Death claiming grandfather when we thought he would live forever.

How did we not see the the footsteps of decay entering the front door, Azrael's perfume heavily stenched with rotting corpses in the antechamber, when hibiscus blooms lining the verandah have not borne the weight of virgin petals for nearly a decade?


One by one, we begin to perish. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

the bride price

how many more nights

will the moon

twist my mother's face

constructing |  constricting

merging  |  margin

marriage |  mirage

un |  holy union

un  |  loving

un  |  masking

un  |  becoming

un  |  birthing

me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mama says...

Mama says,
talking to dad,
They are telling us to go back to where we came from.
...
As if we didn't leave "our countries" so many moons ago to come and settle here.
...
To make this place our "new" home.
...
Mama says,
There is no place to go back to.
This is our home.
...
She looks at me with more worry in her eyes that I ever want to see and says,
...
You be careful baby girl.
You make sure you are aware of your surroundings.
You make sure you are not alone.
You make sure to keep your phone with you.
And most of all,
You make sure to keep your hot head in check.
You make sure you do not engage in your usual "human rights debates".
...
And I look down at my hands.
With tears in my eyes.
And then I fix my hijab.
And think,
About all those people who think Islamophobia doesn't exist.
...
Because for me this is my only home.
...
But for me Islamophobia is a daily thing I face.
In one way or another.

Friday, October 24, 2014

when our souls
depart from
grief
depart from
world
they told us
we would be punished
because our bodies
couldn’t make it through hell
— suicide is a sin

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When Identity Politics becomes abusive

            Like every major religion, say, Islam, Christianity and Marxism, Identity politics comes from a place that strives to give the voiceless a voice (or you know, a blog). These faiths seek to serve justice and use various means to try to achieve this goal. Islam gave us the Qur’aan and Shariaah. Identity Politics gave us anti-oppressive language or uh, anti-oppressive discourse (always read the word “discourse” in a dudebro voice, just a side note #selfcare). Oh yes, and safe(rrr) spaces and anti-oppressive practice.
            Although I self-identify as an identity politics extremist, like many people who belong to a faith group, I don’t know exactly what anti-oppressive practice is. This I believe is because the way that people read the scripture is not devoid of the contexts of our lives. Therefore, like Islam, Christianity and Marxism, the way that people practice this faith transforms based on the socioeconomic and political context, but also based on how where they stand within these spectrums and maps. For example, depending on your racial and class, You are considered a “good” or a “bad” Muslim. If You are rich and have the time to read a lot of scriptures and are relatively White, Arab or South Asian and live in the West, You have it pretty good (because let’s be real, money mediates experiences of Islamophobia because of access to education etc.- but I digress).
And also, power. Based on your identity and socioeconomic status, you will be penalized to different degrees for misusing religious (cue: dudebro voice) discourses, the best example being Obama and his crimes against humanity in the name of Judeo-Christian values. Framing. It’s cute.
            So I am here to “abuse” or uh, “call out” the academic class of Identity Politics Extremists (even though I prefer the politics of calling in, but y’all have really been irking me lately and I’m sure I’ve been irking people too).
            To condense my issues into two succinct points:
1.     Identity politics derails other issues
2.     Identity politics often condenses activist work into language policing
These issues intersect, obviously. Now, to elaborate.
            The best example I can come up with regarding identity politics is the discussion over class. Granted, usually it’s scrawny white dudebros who sleep with The Communist Manifesto under their pillow to bring the revolution closer who like to talk about class but that shouldn’t shut down the class discussion within racialized circles altogether because richer racialized people are keen on deconstructing race and identity. That’s called a derailment. Often rich racialized people have degrees. Just my 2 cents.
            I do think that often, issues are more complex. You have a group of people. Some are more disenfranchised than others. You’re organizing an event. It has to do with an issue that doesn’t center your community, rather, that perhaps it has to do more with your complicity in other issues like say, indigenous apartheid. People get bored and sad that THEY AREN’T THE CENTRE OF THE DISCUSSION. WHY AREN’T WE DISCUSSING RACE AND IDENTITY AND HOW IT FUCKS ME OVER? Well. Because sometimes you aren’t a victim. Sometimes You are a perpetrator. Of structural disenfranchisement. I get it. You face it. You can still perpetuate it. Repeat. Got it? No? Why are You even reading this? I have no sources to cite.
            Ah you stayed. Thank You.
            So something really beautiful and revolutionary that Mark Zuckberg stole from his Harvard colleagues who probably stole it from someone else invented is the Facebook. Facebook is so BLOODY FUCKING REVOLUTIONARY. It gives people a space not only to set up events and invite people and organize rallies and other you know, potentially transformative work. However, a lot of times people like to do even more transformative work. And I don’t mean self-care revolutionary I mean, truly revolutionary where they read people’s content, get enraged and comment. And then the world changes for the better. I mean come on, ever since Facebook was invented and people started commenting, INCOME GAPS HAVE DECREASED. GDPS HAVE GONE UP. And it is literally all because people have been saying “people of colour” instead of “colored people”. OH SORRY I MEANT “racialized people” instead of “people of colour”.
Environmental degradation? Increasing tuition debt? War? Apartheid? Sweatshop labor? Militarization? Let us organize events. Let us undermine the state. Let us make good allies and set up coping mechanisms for survivors. Excuse me, I’m not Indian. I’m a fifth generation East African Indian diaspora. That was really triggering.
And of course these conversations take place in person at long-winded meetings where people could actually be organizing #butidentitypolitics. 

Anyway. Rant over. I hate the left. May God be with You all. Unless You’re Marxist. Then may Marx’s spirit bring the revolution. Goodbye.

Monday, October 20, 2014

to woman is to fade

my . self .
a poem in lay.ers .
i.am.bs
in alle(gor)i(e)s . stacked against bodies .
after bodies . after . bodies .
after . bo . dies .
on tracks . tire tracks . (t)rain tracks .
trample . tr . ample . tramp . le . trample . trample . trample .
t r e m b l e … . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

disclaimer

sometimes i'm terrified
of writing
i'm afraid of
reading my own pain
of reliving a moment
that will last forever
afraid of
feeling my heart
clench
and weigh me down
so i write myself disclaimers instead

Thursday, September 11, 2014

eventually you'll realize...

your mother didn't want you
you mistook habit for love
performance for affection
eventually you'll realize
this isn't pain
that becomes numb
it doesn't fade with time
or with death
eventually you'll realize
your mother gave birth to her wounds
and you couldn't heal them for her

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

selfies



I have no time for your shallow commentary on selfie culture

Maybe some people take selfies out of narcissism,
but it's not your body so back the fuck up.

Maybe you were lucky enough to have a mother who called you
beautiful everyday

Maybe you were lucky enough to have enough money to buy you 
nice clothes

Maybe you were lucky enough to look like what they wanted.

But everyday I wake up and look at my 200 pound brown body and then
I imagine something else.

Everyday I wonder why people tell me to lose weight?
to be smaller, lighter, softer, invisible?

"why do all brown people look the same?"
"why is your hair so dark?"
"you have a small forehead"
"you look so different without makeup" 
"did you lose weight? you should keep this look"

I recount these events in my head often.
and then I ask myself:

"who taught you to hate what God made you?"
The truth is I don't know.

What I do know is that every time I take a selfie
I feel real fucking pretty.

Anon

Friday, May 30, 2014

everyone wants to read poems on love and loss and coping
but who will listen to the sinners
with broken hearts
when they tell you
their story

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

sunset after dark

midday hangs heavy over the pallet
facing the open sky
the doors are never closed
always waiting for
a homecoming

a widow docks on the nearby shore
slim tentacles sagging from bloodletting
nightly offerings to the roaring seas
who take pleasure in devouring
posterity
and inheritance

the fishermen reap shells on high tides
sometimes grenades-
or uniforms
or a photograph
of sons with crooked teeth

and still the sun shutters
and the waves stutter
until the cocking of guns
clings to aural memory
drowning laughter
of first steps taken

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

THE MILITANT FEELGOOD MOVEMENT

You are a self-proclaimed "anti-war" "feminist" with "anti-oppressive politics". You are also a woman of colour (and if not I don't know what You're doing here).

You have been through this scenario (or variations of it time and time over again). 

It begins in a "safe space"; a vacuum where human interactions are limited to:
1. Active listening 
2. Resource sharing 
3. Activism 

Let me break it down: 
1. Active listening

 AL--smoothes mustache at patriarchal implementation of acronym because as academics we must make everything inaccessible. Do we have consensus? Yes? If not we can talk about it for three hours. Yes? Ok

*bursts out laughing upon establishing that I haven't even finished my undergraduate degree* (not really, I sordidly snigger as I swallow my inferiority complex upon being inept in academic settings) 


AL is great in some situations

(This would be the first person's cue to [compassionately] apologize for my situation. "We are all different and we have different accessibilities as women of colour. Never apologize for your reality. RECLAIM RECLAIM RECLAIM.) (And Your response to this is feeling like shit about your "situation" even though You didn't really feel like shit before)

(These may all be valid points, but to be quite frank, was doing quite well before You apologized for all the things that marginalize me. I would recommend that You join Selena Gomez as a Humanitarian Aid Ambassador)

But anyway, back onto task--
  Entails nodding vigorously, embodying compassion through your face, eyes and meaningful "hmmms", "yes" and "I hear that".

It is important in situations where You have been faced with racism, sexism, all the glorious isms, let me not get into the jazz of it. It is important to debrief, don't get me wrong. Everyone needs a circle where they can access active listening.

This is what it is not. It is not transformative if the end goal is to have random strangers pay a cover price to talk about their feelings under the guise of transformative activism. It is inherently individualistic. It does not undermine structures of oppression. Active listening is in effect, a business #capitalism

Let us move on. 

2. Resource Sharing 
To be quite frank I don't know what this is. However, again, as is inherent in activist culture, I will delve into the beautiful realm of bullshit (because how will I come off as intensely knowledgeable and insightful if I can't take up space?) 

Resource sharing is the sharing of resources. And by sharing I don't mean merely sharing, it is the distribution and dissemination of resources. Resources come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are not only assets but they are also artifices. 

In conclusion, it is important to share resources. And listen actively. 
Sometimes, if You are REALLY lucky, You'll get some action. Look at that, a pun. Usually though, "radicalism" usually merely entails active listening (and maybe resource sharing, but I'm not sure what that is) 

3. Activism
Activism is actually really fun. I mean it. 
It entails: 
i. planning
ii. protesting 
iii. debriefing 

Again, it is usually confined inside the university. If not, it is led by upper-middle class academic types with credentials as follows:

George Debouf 
BA, Political Science
MA, Political Science 
PhD, Political Science 

As You can tell, Professor Debouf has plenty of experience on the field of the university. 
His lectures are truly transformative because at least we know we are selling out when we sell our labour to capitalism. (the alternative is naturally death). He is truly an expert in the field of apartheid, racism and patriarchy. He has read up on it. 

Planning is my favourite part. 
It entails hours discussing what colour posters should be, who to call so that we have a celebrity activist so that other activists come to cheerlead "the cause" even though at this point most planners don't have a clear conceptualization of what it might be. But anyway, it's boring because it's long, but it's fun because You get to say things like "Power to the people"

Protesting is great too. 
You scream in crowds and (dont really) undermine security and the police (but usually You think You are) 
You leave feeling great. Like You have demolished capitalism. 

Debriefing: 

This is where all the "problematic" aspects of "activism" are deconstructed. See: active listening. 

-Aaliya Khan

Friday, May 16, 2014

things that remind you of home

what is the taste of me?
dried tamarind, humid sun

what does my mother smell like?
lemongrass in the gardens

you can still taste
crushed betel leaves
when you turn us in
your tongues
the remnants of my grandmother
when you
pluck us strip us
eat us

so what is the flavour of us?
of three generations chewed between
teeth browned by the
bitterness of manhood?

i part my lips and he tastes death

al-hurriya: prayer for rain

don’t come to me with tasbeeh
chained around your neck
don’t speak to me in sermons
false clairvoyance

i have been owned

don’t come to me with negligence
wrapped in du’aas
tipped with poison

it’s been a long mile
since i’ve had rain in
my hair

you, who make supplication
soaked in blood of unclaimed
daughters

you, who accept gold over
a whore’s repentance

you you you
who shoot kill burn martyr
in the name of god
and
carve new gods
out of
men
       trading lush graves
       for the idolater’s throne

la ilaha illallah

i have been to
the devil’s mouth
and back

i have returned
i have become
                       i am

                                ready

and i will take no prisoners
in my compassion

so don’t come to me with prayer beads

Monday, April 14, 2014

my father

arrived on the shores of this country at the age of 17
with facial hair as thick as borders
and forehead lines that ran deeper than the oceans he had crossed
disguising his youth
inaugurating him into manhood
when the soviets invaded my father’s childhood
when the americas packaged and sold illusions of freedom
when motherlands began to cry out in protest
over all that was being done to them
our cabbie father drove home strangers 
that were too drunk to put sentences together
but sober enough to laugh at his broken english
and when he silently mourned
for his murdered country
his humiliated ego
he would recline into nostalgia
my father 
has spent 30 years
navigating foreign
losing himself along the way

Monday, March 31, 2014

tears

when my mother weeps
for the wounds inflicted upon her
by mankind
my heart trembles
i watch the tears
evaporate from her eyes
and crawl back into the earth
where they will be kept
until the day of reckoning
and when the men rise
every tear drop will fall again
like broken glass
piercing their bodies
reclaiming her sacrifice 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Equinox - the promise

The last rose has not abandoned the desert. That is how you know there is still hope in a country where the sun was stolen from its people.


Laila, the moon, blankets her children in poplars to give them impenetrable skin.  She knows firsthand how metal birds circling the arid skies could extinguish the noor from your face. Hers is punctured with crags and potholes. Did you know that it had once slain thousands of soothsayers in its luminescence? A pair of dimmed kohl-stained orbs gracing the top of her visage used to be a well for wandering fakirs to quench their thirst so they could continue searching for god in hydration. Her eyes would have dried out long ago, like her tears, had the sockets not become hidden treasuries containing forgotten knowledge of old.  She is a living mausoleum in a land of slaughtered libraries.

At night, Laila whispers ghazals into the children’s ears.  The ney-wind echoes her melody through the distance, touching the undead that are still alive in resigned prostration, perpetually praying under shattered minarets in an eternal sunset.  There are no muezzins left in this etiolated house of worship. And so her voice has replaced the call to prayer summoning the faithful. Someday, it will roar in her children’s mouths as a war chant to turn this moonscape into a lush oasis.

Until then, she awaits the bloom of red roses on their vascular skins.

Spring will come once more, and with it – home


-- filzah m.h.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If I dared to speak about my love for you


I know what everyone will say.
“You’re just going to be disappointed.”
“Our men are hopeless.”
“You’re better off with someone else.”
“Blah, blah, blah.”
I feel sorry for the lovers of white men.

They just would never understand why
we chose each other.
For there are no words
in this disgusting English language
to describe the love
that made me revolutionary.

Mariategui Bonifacio, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

broken english

when my mother struggles to spell a word in english
I want to break the entire language
into little pieces
so the edges of these letters
will stop cutting her


- aysha