Song of the Syeds

My grandfathers fought bloody wars to establish a land of peace

Where the mountains kissed the earth and rested like giants over us

Where we could meet them from our rooftops, drinking chai, and eating sweets.

To the west, we prayed, and to the east, we remembered.

When I visited my grandparents’ house in Modelltown on E block,

I saw how little it was. My feet felt tender

Against the concrete as I walked in with bare feet.

Pictures hung on the wall

Showed Nani Ammi and Nana Aba

Married out of love, nine children in all

To stay in this land, only seven of them agreed

Now my uncle is in this house with his wife and his daughters

They moved some furniture around, added a rug, made a new space

Some things from the past have been erased, some have been altered

But the walls speak and my mother keeps looking at these pictures to retreat

On the floor, we gather to play ludo

Whose turn is it to roll the dice?

Mine. Kudos.

Now you die.

The maid cooks aloo pratha to eat.

Climb up to Mari at the very top

A civilization that lay the ruins of a palace

They look similar to the stones of the Kafirkots

The rulers and the ruled now lost

In a rickshaw we ride through the streets.

Our family’s favorite flower is the rose, and our favorite metal is gold

That’s what we cover our bodies in, in marriage,

And in death when we’re old

La’illa ha il Allah

On my janamaz, on my knees

I pray for my family

For being born in New Jersey

For being a woman of a high breed

For fathers of the Syed caste, descendants of the Messenger

Peace be upon him, for protection from the angels, for avoidance of the jinn

For the colors of the sands that match my skin

For the richness of my blood that cleanses sin

Green and white, crescent infinite

Pink and passion,

black and Heaven

under my mother’s feet




Photo courtesy of Google Images

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