Poetry: Selections from Afra Adil Ahmad


On the day my daughter turns three
old enough to understand fragments of
the intricate theory of love, I will unfold
my prayer rug and proudly confess to her: 

this is where you beg
beg as if there's no tomorrow
beg without the hesitation of hoboes in front of the porticos of affluent businessmen
beg like a gale that would sabotage the plans of his perpetrators 
beg with a belief that you will be awarded what you're striving for

tell as if you would perish without telling
and then continue telling your Most Benevolent friend 
how your day went, how someone fibbed to you
what makes you burn in delight, what are your darkest fears

cry as if 
you have something
to cry for

this is how I will help her practise
for I know the intense years that will unfurl
she will have something or someone to cry for

this is not a curse, I swear
this is prayer in its purest form

for I know this world will break her too
the way it broke me, the way it broke my ancestors, so I have to 
help her long before she begins believing she's irreparable like pearls that know they can never go back to their celestial shells

but with God by your side
even the moon can be halved 

I will help her 
the same way my lovely mother did.


A man without limbs
grapples with negativity
to function properly.
She is not
just my mother.
The voracious nooks
and crannies
of this house
have been nudging me:
who will tend to us, now?
whose smile will
warm us up?
In response to
their plea,
I holler:
who will lull
my insecurities to sleep?
who will wipe
my profuse tears?
An obsession
with a mother
is different than that
with a lover –
you wouldn’t have
arrived here
without a mother,
you have dwelled
near her heart
before entering
this realm
of murkiness and exhaustion.
Without her
every magical thing
that encompasses me
becomes meaningless,
without her
the synonym of
She is akin
to my limbs.
In her absence,
I resemble a man
without limbs;
In her absence,
I resemble a boat
adrift on the sea.


The wax of my life's candle has melted
and I find myself utterly incapable of reconstruction.

Childhood traumas drone over my head:
my unhealed wounds bandaged with makeshift dressings.
Watch me attempt to replenish the veil of my hope
and fill this heart with alluring tenderness again.

You had whispered once:
"You possess no other skill but to douse in love, 
anyone and everyone - angels or enemies.”

But love is better, more peaceful 
than the thirst for vengeance
that Heathcliff nurtured till his death:
you will be left with nothing.

In the messy trench where hearts are hurled,
on closer inspection, you will find 
my quixotic heart floating too;

Which pyre will be suitable to roast all the letters
penned and glued with the costliest adhesive in town
by a renowned scrooge, only for you?

I can share with certainty, you will declare this piece
as another puerile work of poetry.
Even though you're an egregious liar,
we're finally on the same page here.

Look at which forlorn juncture,
we’ve both agreed for the very first time.


For you to get over
the loss of your
mother's mother
I know it is so
hard as if asking a 
man without hands
to hold a 
bundle of timber

to lose a love
that was vaster 
than the Caspian Sea
I know it is so 
hard, for you are
used to a fragrance 
not many have
had the chance 
to savour

but when you 
move on, for once
spare some time
to consider the 
magnitude of my pain

and let me know 

what is it like to 
be caressed by
crinkled hands
and just continue 
holding them
for hours 
when you know 
the edifice of the
world you had 
assembled carefully
has disintegrated
yet again

what is it like to be
cared and loved
for who you are 
not for what you 
can do, not for what 
you can lend

what is it like
to place your 
vulnerable head on 
the safe lap
of your grandmother
and dauntlessly let
the tears drizzle
the way they prefer
even when everyone's
watching with 
eyes like eagles

I do not know 

for my mother's
mother died before
I entered this world.

Willow baskets

I wish I could offer you willow baskets 
fat with the treasures of love that stream inside my ailing heart
in return for everything that you
do for me. There's so much ruined
inside me
each portion requires 
weeks to thrive again. I can't care 
about you now.
And sometimes you have to make peace 
with the fact that you 
cannot force yourself to love every Magnolia that drops near your door no matter
how much you adore Magnolia flowers.
Leave if after learning this fact, your life becomes unendurable. Or wait
if a few bubbles of patience are left in your dainty satchel. 

Pardon me for saying 
but you cannot compel a bruised person 
to heal quickly and 
bring back her blithe spirit for
I am not a bottle of cooking oil to be opened whenever you desire. I will be taking 
some time. But my grim windows are open for you 
to hop inside. They are also open for another reason: you can leave if you find it tough to bear with me. There are bleeding corpses 
of agony inside me
until I bury all of them, I am not ready to scatter
any new seeds.

Afra Adil Ahmad is a writer, poet, artist and calligrapher. Based in Taiwan, she holds a Bachelor's degree in English Literature. She writes about everything under the sun: from dark issues of the society to problems faced by teenagers to imparting chunks of wisdom through her poems, stories and write-ups. Her works have appeared in various magazines including Iman collective, MYM, Rather Quiet, Euonia Review, Olney Magazine, The Malu Zine, The Sophon Lit, Blue Minaret, Melbourne Culture Corner, Her Hearth Magazine, and The Hot Pot Magazine.


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