“Immigrant Eid”

Art in Exile Anas Salameh

This poem I wrote on Eid in 2005, feels uncomfortably appropriate for tomorrow’s Eid. Still.

**immigrant eid**

they announced Eid today.

my house is silent.
i hear more sirens than usual outside.

my husband’s at work.

this morning
i couldn’t get out of bed and go
to eid namaz.

i really should push myself, i thought,
and go, but thought, then, go for what?
so my husband and i can split up
at the mosque front door to go and sit
with our respective strangers inside?
so aunties in abayas can look
at my pants, because they’re shabby and
because they’re pants, and then look up
at my face unseeing-
When we’re done i come out and wait
for him in the cold parking lot
watching people hurry to cars
and segregated parties in their
tight little colour-coordinated groups-
while a bearded man in a jalabiya
stares at this female body jammed
outside in a twisting river of men.

when i got out of bed at last, i didn’t
want to, and i couldnt stop crying
in the shower.

In Lahore,
ammi has cooked two types of sivayyan
and put them out in glass bowls,
with carrot halva and Kashmiri chai.

My Eid outfit complete with sparklies
is lying ironed on the bed.
Auntie Shaista in the drawing room loudly
waits to see how my outfit looks.

Little Izza is knocking at
my door, asking when i’ll be ready,
when I will come out to admire
her pink sharara and bright new shoes.

Asad is watching TV, but
the corner of his eye is waiting for me

Abbu and Imran are just returning
in white kurtas from eid namaz.

but here
in the fortunate first world
where I’m supposed to be bettering my life
and speaking english all the time–
here, where there is no dust, no flies,–
here, in the warm clean tiled shower
i can’t stop sobbing

Alone, with sirens screeching outside,
i prayed two rak’ahs afterwards
with seven takbeers
and seven tears hit the ja’inamaz
with far too loud a splash, and then
i read some pages of the eleventh sipara
–ironically, ya’tazirun–
and sent sawab to the Prophet,
my shaykh, my uncles and aunts,
grandparents, like ammi does, and then
i said,
I’m sorry i didn’t go to Eid namaz
and then i couldn’t stop crying again
my heart broke right there on the rug
and spilled wide open

and i said please don’t be mad at me.
look, i’m here, and my outfit’s in Lahore,
and Izza’s knocking on the door,
and I have no sivayyan,
and my heart the poor tattered heart
that I know You love
is broken today.

He looked at me, with those quiet eyes
and said, yes, I know. i cried again
and said that eid is eid
only because You’re here with me.

ten years in this new home of mine
and still eid day is not quite eid.

They say it’s eid today, but there,
on the rooftops of Lahore, young boys
saw a little sliver of moon that shone
through smoggy clouds and snaky cables
as an eagle swam across the sky.

Here, i saw no moon, i saw
moonsighting.com, and wrote an email-
eid mubarak exclamation point-
and cc’ed it to everyone.

i thought of calling ammi to say
eid mubarak. but i was afraid
my voice would catch, and she would hear
who i am here

and then i’d know for sure that she
was there, and there are no sivayyan
on my IKEA table, no halva
on the stove, no kashmiri chai
steaming in pretty china cups
no smiling niece outside my door
and no red kurta on my bed

5 thoughts on ““Immigrant Eid””

  1. Thank you for this piece, it’s very moving. I am the daughter of immigrants who tried very hard to make Eid special for their American children. I have no doubt that those Eids when my parents first moved to the US were very difficult, but over the years we have developed our American Eid traditions. Our celebration started off small–just our family. But we would take the day off from work/school, get new clothes, gifts and eat a special dinner together. Over the years, our Eid celebration has grown to include other families in our community who spend the holiday away from their families overseas. Eid is now full of love, laughter, familiar faces and way too much food. I am making dua for you and your family, InshAllah future Eids are filled with light and baraka…and you’re always welcome to come celebrate with us! 🙂 Eid Mubarak!

    1. thank you for the invitation, fatnurmaz. I would love to join your family – I’m sure they’d be as delightful and radiant as you are. The construction of community, celebration, identities in new spaces is hard work. Your parents did a fabulous job of it, and I just wonder if I’ve got it in me!

      Thank you, Shawna. I hope that, as fatnurmaz says, you too have Eids filled with light and baraka. Maybe we need to join forces, eh?

  2. it was moving… but the criticism at women at the eid salah…. hmmm.. uncalled for, maybe? to just cram all the muslims who go to offer eid salah into one group you’ve experienced… or maybe not even experienced? i found that *mean* coz we here in karachi dont give a second glance at clothes… its surprising ppl in west would… but khair, to each his own. :-/

  3. Thanks for your comment, Ambreen, but I didn’t say all the muslims who offer eid salah were in one group. I merely described my experience of eid salah. I find it surprising that you say that in Karachi (or anywhere in Pk) people don’t give a second glance at clothes. That’s not my experience, having grown up in Pakistan. Still, it’s true that Muslims in the West are a bit fixated on clothes, though I’m not sure if you’re saying I’m mean or the women who stare at my clothes are.

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