Audio: Read by the author.
The day she came home after midnight they stood united,
and in their beautiful mother tongue they cut her, sorrowfully.
They said that because she had forgotten her Urdu, she had forgotten
not to meet a boy in secret, she had forgotten the sacrifices of her mother,
and of her mother’s mother, how they had bled across the border leaving
behind jewels and bringing with them words in the lining of their shirts.
They said, in their beautiful mother tongue, that because she had forgotten
adab, and lahu, and Khuda, she was not their daughter anymore.
In the freedom of all the things she had forgotten, she sketched on her arm
with her inkless pen, red lines running parallel, teaching herself basic
communication. The sting took her away, past the moon, and she was now
a nuqta and now a vowel. She learned trilateral roots of names of planets and
shades of anger. And that welts fade, that blood is poetic in every language, in every
instance of its having been spilled, for country or for self. She learned that
Betelgeuse is yad al-Jawza, and al-Jawza is Orion, and they have all spun in the arms
of the galaxy, coming full circle, because nothing is ever forgotten. And she learned
that Al-Wadud is God and God is Khuda.
Yad is hand.
Adab is manners.
Lahu is blood.
Nuqta is dot.
Al-Wadud is the Most Loving One.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.