Behenchara

Pinpointing god on a map By Menahil Shahid

Artwork by Umema Kanwal Hayat

 

My uncle boasts of the dark mark

on his forehead – a visible diagnosis

of his piety. His wife smiles at the mark

and nods. It is impossible to look

into his eyes without Fury

threatening to overwhelm her.

This woman, laughs louder than her husband’s voice. Her children?

Her love is softer than the back of his hand.

They will choose someday.

Until then, they abide by my aunt’s

muted, pink, swollen eyes.

how many pounds will buy obedience?

how many flowers will his hands plant?

 

This man. This man.

Who is this man?

 

Father’s favorite prayer beads are scattered underneath his prayer mat. His incantations never

extend to the tar like words

falling from his tongue that I swear

may be made of the same substance it spews. Vile – poisonous. risky consumption.

sister twisted the string till all the little beads went scattering. Volume makes her nervous

hide it before he comes, mama hisses.

the inscriptions carved into the tasbih            imprinted on her face.  For 90 seconds. maybe more?

same hand  same prayers

all those little beads    choking her   me   mama never breathed again.

 

 

Put on a Chaddar today

Never underestimate the weight of it like I did

brought suddenly to my knees   like something broke against the floor

probably my bones     but that’s someone else’s job not mine

could it be guilt  fear  anger

that has brought me to bow my head

to a wall. The paint and plaster deserted it leaving behind only some cement and brick

 

I call upon my god in a prayer

there is nothing but my heart thumping away – an all too knowing beat

it is futile to search for my god here

I already know where they are:

the hair shorn off, her face glowing in the mirror

the light in her face is god

he works for his father

day by day taking orders

setting aside the glass his own thirst never quenched

and on the weekend when he might celebrate

the sigh escaping his mouth is god

 

why look for god in places that have never held them

fostering only a betrayal

to what I already know.

 

menahil.shahid4@gmail.com

 

Menahil Shahid is a student of Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology at Forman Christian College and University, Lahore, Pakistan. She spends her time writing, attempting to learn new instruments, and hoping to sing well enough to bring a nightingale to her window.

 

 You can see more of Menahil’s on Facebook.

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