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Ayesha Asad

Nana Builds Himself a Grave

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out of lentils & chrysanthemum,
lies down in reporter form,
unrepentant & firm.
Brown skin folded into foil, joints dusty
& starched like the white collars he wore
to press conferences. Nana a bird,
roosting on bark we
burst forth from, holy &
reborn as baby chicks.
His phone voice
steer-born & cracked
with aged glass.
How are you, my dear?
I knew him from memory,
from his youth
raw and tight-lipped like a lion
& his mottled eyes. & when he
became a shadow instead
of the father who bought daal &
fed his cubs for a month
without a job & when he was red-rimmed
with coughs & stiff limbs
& when his death felt
like sleep & when the date trees
still broke the soil & the rain washed color
into the grass
& mother woke up again,
I don’t remember. It seems the leaves
still kiss the earth.
It seems my mother
still breathes the air

Sweet, Sweet Culture

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& the girls / twist their hips / to Shakira songs / faces undone / driving past Interstate /
with muddled lips / drops of zam-zam / pinking the horizon / loud in open mics / men laughing /
saying you ladies scare me / reading books that teach them / to hate their brown skin / pilled
white mirrors / kohl-rimmed eyes / purple lipstick / & pale foundation / hijabs pinned / no, they
don’t poke us
/ boys in Adidas slides / saying yo, Tarek / entrepreneurs / theater kids at night /
gulping rooh afza / & fruit chat / skipping curfew / praying in white kufis / & gray thobes /
people think are dresses / shoulder to shoulder / fundraisers a precipice / of the mosque /
bleeding MCAT problems / perfect immigrant kids / parents with car dealerships / & holed out
sandals / bright blue jilbabs & dupattas / mothers who drink chai / & teach children to multiply /
kids who cut hair at barbershops / after school / the congregation / that makes rounds on
YouTube / & strides past army-clad protesters / guns drawn & flaunted / assimilate or get out /
cosmic bodies unstable / mocked on TV / & the cars who cut through the wave / & push it back /
the man baked in sun / holding a sign / we the people / are greater than fear / a body swelled
with rain / & daisies / a confrontation / of decay

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