THREE POEMS by Dilruba Ahmed

/ / Issue 16, Poetry, Uncategorized


How each one is taken  
with care from car 

to school doorstep, each one 

hand-in-hand with an adult.  
How the mothers 

and fathers kiss 

their foreheads, first 
pushing aside their bangs 

or smoothing 

a stray wisp.  One 
parent straightens 

her daughter’s velvet 

headband; another wipes 
dried oatmeal 

from his son’s pink lips.  

How carefully 
each child is guided       

around the bumpers 

of cars. How some turn 
to wave goodbye 

one last time while others,   

drawn to friends 
by an invisible cord,

move together, first left

then right, with 
the synchronicity 

of fish.  How even the child 

with tears in his lashes
who cowers near a teacher 

knows that in a matter of hours, 

a loved one will return  
to him, to return him 

to the facts of home: 

butterfly net 
for trapping monarchs.

Foil blanket

from a space museum.
Four-leaf clover 

charms on a chain.



Hiding us all the times               
we prefer to stay hidden.
Piled by the door 
rumpled, forgotten. 
Brought forward 
in offering: burnt mittens, 
torn shoes, bloodied handkerchief.  
I have hung on a clothesline 

                                                     shirts so white that I 
felt surrounded by clouds 
or by the impossible words 
of God.  Sometimes the wind 
blows through me 
as though I do not exist, 
as though all form 
could go formless without notice. 
Think, for example, of the way 
no one stands at the door 

                              offering a cabled sweater, saying 
here you might need this 
it’s cold out today no one
except me, for example.  
And though 
there is no one, now, 
inside the sweater 
here I am                        securing each button
all the way to the top, 
delicately lifting
imagined lint                                            from a sleeve.




Caught between one world 
and the next, between the buzzing actual 
of air breathed, streets crossed, 

food chosen, prepared, 
consumed.  Of sleep slept 
but broken 

again and again into waking—

caught between the easy language     
of regret and viscous words of loss, 
words that, like timid creatures, 

have tunneled deep into caves
for the long winter, and may never 
emerge again, such is the lure 

of the darkness
and the mind & the mouth hollowed out.
Caught between laughing 

about what he would’ve said
about attending to his own death           
Easy now, easy, take it easy now now now

and absorbing the infinite chill
of seeing he could 
no longer say it—

we speak of him, still, in the present
tense. Caught between calling, first,
the one who’d prepare his body 

for the grave or the one who’d 
tend to his soul as he’d wished.
Morgue or mosque, we ask 

him, mosque or morgue we ask
ourselves.  Again and again, 
the sound of no voice,

just the specter of one nurse 
and then another
shuffling down the hall in scrubs, 

doctors in angel-white gowns 
and shoes, their hairnets 
like deflated haloes 

clinging to their heads.