In these poignant poems, Naima Rashid explores the beauty and complexity of motherhood, and the passage of time as both parent and child grow together.
his talking still
like bird song,
he was telling his grand-parents
about his first bike,
he was saving for –
the full works.
In response to his chirping,
they kept answering
of their own son’s bike,
my son’s father,
a full forty of age.
As if it was fresh
from last week,
with relived regret
how the bike was stolen
the same week it was bought.
I thought it was a sign
they were going senile,
this time warp they were in.
Yesterday, he left for college
again. Making his bed,
I close the door on
his once-again empty room.
taking the third wheel
off his bike?
his bruise from the first fall?
Life’s like that –
you look over your shoulder,
We were two women in a room
Across the restaurant,
we were two women in a room,
our lives suddenly face-to-face,
adjacent for a flash
She was feeding a second child at her breast,
singing a lukewarm wheelsonabusgoroundandround
scanning the menu furtively in-between,
Shiva with hands in a hundred places,
in her mind, the hissing rattlesnake
of a to-do list, making her eyes senseless busy-
scattered, mist-covered windows.
Baggy pants, baggy shirt;
I remember the time I had harbored my body
in the flowing folds, I remember
when that felt like the only safe place.
I know by the heartache of absence now
that absolute dependence of a body
that came from you, was bound to you-
against your breast,
lining the inside of your mind,
wedged like a tiny nuisance
between you and another
who made love each night
(or was that another life?)
I remember the vertigo,
the merciless falling through space
finding footing between losing what you thought
was a thing of beauty, and watching it become
something from a biology text book,
a vessel through which life fulfilled its purpose.
I remember the strangeness of milk flowing,
I remember the soreness of breasts to the touch.
I remember the inkwell of shame,
the silence you could howl yourself hoarse into,
doors closing with nowhere to run.
How cliched would it be to
smile to her and say it will go by too fast.
How much he needs you now
hurts nothing like how little he will need you later.
You won’t believe me if I told you
the ease of their goodbyes will
break your heart.
Time will free up suddenly,
like a lake drying up in the sun,
you’ll find yourself a stupid
head out of water at last,
painted and dressed with nowhere to go
late for the show,
always late for the show
That’s probably how she saw it,
look at this woman,
sitting in the middle of a café by herself
like a queen,
owning her solitude and her space,
no children to put to sleep,
no duties pulling her a million ways,
what sweet freedom it would be
for a woman to be this free.
We were two women in a room
each looking at the other
thinking how much time had gone
He comes home one day,
my six-year old.
joyous at his first
ever broken tooth
the neat square of absence
sitting on his face
like a single window
in a house from a freak fairy tale
of its numerical oddness.
It lets in the wind
and his tongue slips
into the gap
all too often
slurring his speech
spilling the sounds
all over, a gush
of hisses and whistles
like miniscule pearls
through the perfect square drain
Attempt at apology
Forgive me that it left you broken too;
there isn’t room enough in the universe
for a mother to break
About Naima Rashid
Naima Rashid is an author, poet and literary translator. Her first book was “Defiance of the Rose” (Oxford University Press, 2019), a translation of selected verses by late Urdu poet Perveen Shakir. Her forthcoming works include a joint translation of ‘Zizanies’ by Clara Schulmann with other translators (Les Fugitives, 2022) and ‘Naulakhi Kothi’ by Ali Akbar Natiq (Penguin Random House India, 2023) as well as her own fiction and poetry. Her works and views have been widely published in online and print journals including Asymptote, Poetry Birmingham, Lunate, Wild Court, The Scores, The Aleph Review and Lucy Writers’ Platform.
She was longlisted for the National Poetry Competition 2019. Her fiction will be included in the Best Small Fictions anthology (Sonder Press, 2022). She is a member of the UK-based translation collective, Shadow Heroes, which teaches young people to embrace all sides of their heritage through translation workshops across different languages. She has previously taught French as a foreign language and French literature at the linguistic wings of the French Consulates in Lahore and Jeddah and at Kinnaird College, Lahore.
Feature image: Mother & Child, 1961 by Jyoti Bhatt under fair use