Recent events in Pakistan over the past few years have left me broken-hearted. Some have wondered why I, as a Pakistani expat, don’t comment on these events. Why don’t I write an op-ed? A letter of protest? An analysis of the issues?
The truth is, I am speechless. Yesterday, after a long time, I was forced to speak. And I realized the only way I could express my feelings was in verse. So here’s a poem from 2002.
My mother’s home
Prayer of a Pakistani expatriate for her homeland
Black clouds race across the skies
Over my mother’s home.
O come, do come, and shade the roof
With dark green leaves of the mango tree.
My mother’s house stands alone.
My father’s tired horse pulls
the cart and hurries across stones.
The river rumbles and rises higher.
No one will give my father shelter,
and my mother’s home stands alone.
My brother’s child plays in the dust
With paper horses and dolls of clay;
She does not see the clouds ahead.-
Run, child, run into the house for
Lightning cracks over your innocent play.
My sister embroiders her crimson shawl,
Smiling to think of her wedding day.
But the mad wind in the peepul moans
And tugs upon my sister’s shawl,
And my mother’s house stands alone
Across the seven seas I sit
At foreign windows and watch the sky
Until the last of the swallows has flown
And I wait until my tears alight,
Praying for my mother’s home.
My burly cousins in the neighboring town
Can thatch a roof and mend the walls,
But their own house is made of stone
And they have harvest time today
And do not think of my mother’s home.
My mother’s home stands low with no
brick wall, or gate, or dome.
The harsh wind buffets it from all sides
No one comes to my mother’s aid
And her home stands all alone.
O if I were the river I’d embrace the banks.
I would swallow the clouds if I were the sky.
I’d shade the roof if I were a tree.
If I were light I’d embrace the land
And protect her home from the evil eye.