Poetry: Selections from Ali Abid

Now Years Ago, Now Next Year

To celebrate the election
our neighbors throw a brick,
pink and heavy, and with
a wet underside—the three holes
down its chest, meant just for
mortar, but heaped over with
garden soil and pale green things.
We make plans in corners—
inchoate as djinn bound to
broken tools and unmoved
stones; we wonder out of view,
where cold air and a blown in leaf,
scratch out a new border.
The brick lays in a field of shards,
and something young and uprooted
that followed the sun the way peace
never follows victory, shares our
shocked look—and our pane of clean glass
screams into absence.

A Ghazal in Place of a Watch

The low, white birds who shriek at borders saw how
they worried you and so fly lower, closer, even now.
Your father pulled a trunk handle steeply off a train car
and in the darkness noticed this cold, even now.
Your mother plucked her chin and thought about rainfall
in Karachi and her mother kneading her joints, even now.
The white lakes of plates, stacked and unused—
guest beds, cots, and offers, all waiting, even now.
The sorrow of fishes, the sorrow of birds,
the scattering of seed in tough husks, even now.
Wincing at the thought of who you almost left,
and her beside you—every shade of smile—even now.
Washing away everything, ablutions as for prayer,
but somewhere in your molar, an apple skin, even now.
Also in your mouth, some funny words in Urdu,
meant for more than delivering last rites, even now.
And even now there are monks on mountain paths,
humming, singing, shrouded in mist—yes, Ali, even now.

Ali Abid (he/him) is a writer, civil rights attorney, and policy advocate. He has been a featured storyteller at Pour One Out, a monthly storytelling series hosted by Volumes Bookcafe. He lives and works in Chicago.