Thursday, 15 August 2019

Poetry 2019 Longlist, Joyce Job


Ammi’s whispers


My Ammi whispers to the walls at times
of tales, I have never heard of.
In white walls and white doors,
the magical kingdom of Thansoor unfurls.
When the drum beats sing his praises
and the dragons hoot his arrival,
the mighty king fights the evil one, Thenshah.
Ammi blushes looking on blank walls and rooftops,
in her dreams Thansoor looking at her in love.
At night she sings lullabies for him.

The kinsmen murmurs at her back
of their plans to send her to asylum.
“Look at her, shameless to be in love
with another man.
Her husband still alive.
Her kids still breathing and young.
Look at the way she dresses up.
Does that rouge suit a 50-year-old mother?"
Those laughs, that shyness
the colours of her clothes!

Then one night
it happened.
A sword clanging war
Between Ammi and Thenshah.
Thansoor wounded in the desert
Ammi by his side
Winning the war on his behalf.
She fought like a roaring lioness
Merciless in surrendering her pride,
love’s life or honour.

Cruel and unkind to the wrongdoers
She caught Thenshah’s lump of hair
and scared him that she would tear him apart.
“Leave my kingdom, you invader.
This is my homeland.
Thansoor will rule this land to its glory
My sons and daughters will swell with pride
on that day.
In shah Allah!
I will live to see that day.”

In reality,
my father cried like a baby
pleading Ammi
to leave her hold on his hair.
The news spread like fire
"That old lady beats up her husband
like a dog!
Like a dog!
Put her in chains!
Put her in chains!"

But Ammi went on...
The sounds of her trinkets
announcing to the world
"I am still alive and roaming
Bring your chains
See if they can fit my legs
You noisemakers
Commentators on other people’s lives
Go look at your own lives for a minute
See what a mess you live in every day."

Angered they can’t stop my Ammi
they pointed their microphones at Abba.
Abba walked with his head low, ashamed.
They started crying fake tears for us.
“Aaaa Aaaa.. Look at the kids, poor kids.
Who will marry Noorjahan?
Look at Ajmer and Amir...
Such handsome lads.
Tomorrow their heads hung in insult,
will roam the streets like beggars. ”

In fake embraces
whispering the ill thoughts to my Abba.
Mixed with biriyanis they served the venom powders.
In front of our friends and their families
they told the story with pity spilling in each drop.
To the ones we loved
and who dared to love us,
the story of Ammi and Thensoor.
“She lives in her own world, In a fantasy
And they let her roam... roam free!”

When Abba goes to Mosque
and on his way back home,
they chorused
the same verses every day.
“Hide her!
For her kid’s fate.
Chain her!
For your sake.”
Yet Abba went on every day
hearing only what Allah said.

Every day there was a new song
Played in the same tune
Guessing the one among us three,
the first to follow Ammi’s lead.
“Keep an eye on Noorjahan.
She is the one lost in love.”
“Oh no...
it’s the younger one Ajmer
He shouts
and the whole world knows.”

In the middle of the night
from a broken dream
Ammi wakes up and
lays next to me.
Teary-eyed she gives me a hug.
“Amir... Do you hear what they say every day?”
“Who Ammi?”
“The ones who make noises every day.”
“ I don’t listen to them Ammi.
They have nothing better to do.”

“Do you hear what they say about you three?”
“That we will fall sick just like you. “
“Do you believe them, Amir?”
“I hope it’s not Ajmer or Noor.
I can’t see them living this life.”
“Do you want to be like me, Amir?”
Amir cries knowing not what to say.
Who would want to be like my Ammi?
Hated and pushed away,
even by her own family and kids.

“Do you think they are right Ammi?
Do you think one of us will be like you?
Who is the closest one Ammi?
Who is the closest like you?”
Ammi starts crying.
“They say it’s Noor because she is in love.
Or Ajmer because he shouts.
But I don’t believe them Ammi!
What do you think?
Who is most like you?”

Ammi cries and hugs me into warmth.
“Take care of yourself, Amir.
You are the one with dreams.”

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