By Nadia Q. Ahmad
my uncle says that khodahafez
is the wrong way to call out
go-d/b/ye hell/o when you make a call
to namaaz because we don’t call it salaat
we call to see if the moon
has risen above our broadened horizon lines
the broadband verizon lines are jammed
with cloud static
loud we call another uncle across the street
not sure if the moon posted a status
update instead of calling
before god called on us to make the call
to wherever we call home
my other uncle says that a different
uncle says that this uncle
will call you out on everything and insist
that an elephant has five legs
another uncle laughs
because this uncle will call the trunk
a leg he’s pulling a leg he has a leg up he
makes the calls he calls the shots he calls us
to god during ramzaan we don’t call it ramadan
nights when the moon
calls peace from its halo
wrapped from the partition in the sky i
i don’t know what to call it either
something so inscrutable that the call
falls so short
of a calling
call me ishmael ismaa’eel hear
my name is his caller
i call back it’s a missed call on the
voicemail i leave i say khoda-god-allah-hafez
Overheard Near Poets House, Clear as Water
“Did you look on the floor?”
“Did you look on the floor. In the backseat.”
I’d lost a favorite earring
(the pair a gift from my brother)
earlier that afternoon.
In every eavesdropped conversation a cruel reminder
and nothing found.
Or, my friend suggested, maybe this was
a passing on to another person the wave of my worry
about something lost. (I rejected this version.
Instead held the worry closer.)
Something passed on.
Earlier that morning I remembered I’d lost a favorite book;
the book the same color as the earring,
a deep and bright lapis, my favorite blue.
Maybe like the sea, in some places.
Not like the Hudson we walked by now, slate.
The river’s waves reminding of a different book.
“Have you ever read Moby-Dick?”
She hadn’t. I’d read it once, only ever revisited
the first few watery pages:
meditation and water are wedded forever.
At Poets House, memories of the late Agha Shahid Ali
from his beloved: students. From his beloved: brother.
Earrings are like two siblings, perhaps.
A pair, but each with a distinct weight.
If one were to be lost,
the other would hang differently.
How do we remember those who were dear to us?
How do we remember those who first showed us poetry?
“I had to decide, at some point, what to put on the epitaph.”
I realized that when we lose someone—or even some thing—
we are taught to say, inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi raaji’uun.
The idea being that it will return to where it belongs.
Maybe the refrain in a ghazal is calling for something to return,
an echo folding back into itself. At Poets House, one reader had lost
a piece of paper for ten years before finding it.
Another reader was the author of the book I no longer had.
Perhaps in meeting him I had found the book, in some way?
Agha Shahid Ali’s line Call me Ishmael tonight being mistaken
for a reference to Melville. Overheard, perhaps. His sibling
pointing out that it was actually a reference to one brother,
and not another. Clear as water. Lost in translation.
Nadia Q. Ahmad is a poet and writer based in her hometown of Queens, NY. Her work has been published in Poets & Writers Magazine, Newtown Literary, SpliceLit, AAWW Open City, and The Margins. She is a VONA/Voices and Kweli Journal workshop alum. Having been involved in various community initiatives in arts & culture in New York City, Nadia most recently worked as Program Associate at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is currently a board member of the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts (BIPA).