Mother tongue

You know how your mother tongue separates you?

In answering your phone, sitting between your friends

when your brother asks when to pick you up;

in the surprising tone of your colleague who tells you how

your accent is different from those whose language you call as your own.

I carry my language in surprise of people’s faces and sometimes in my own,

when I recognize a native smile,

a nod, a curse word intended as a joke

and in the folds of long forgotten songs.

Yesterday my friends and I sang Sindhi festive songs at a superstore in low voices

while we were in the spice section and giggled

at why these songs never made sense and yet we knew them all.

Sometimes languages aren’t meant to voice opinions,

they’re intended to connect dots,

of people, maps, rivers;

draw lines of love between strangers.

I carry my mother tongue both as a burden and as a privilege,

of knowing all those sounds and words that emanate feelings and emotions

that are not known in other languages.

And yet,

sometimes words are never enough,

it’s the association of language that suffices.

Author’s note: The above piece was published in New Asian Writing (NAW) recently and can be viewed here: http://www.new-asian-writing.com/mother-tongue-by-paras-abbasi/

Imaginary Towns

It’s self-assuring to think in terms of towns.

Towns of happiness and towns of sadness. Towns where people meet and greet and depart and retreat. Towns where summers come for a month or two and the wind blows bringing winters and snow. Towns where people communicate in terms of books they’ve read—the favorite ones, the depressing ones, the ones made that them hold on to people on the verge of losing, and those that made them find themselves. Towns where music plays as a warning in the streets, those slow numbers late in the evening into early hours of the morning.
Can’t we segregate towns for people who love the colors of fall, or early winds of December, and for people who love a sunset at five, an early cold night? Where it rains in the afternoons, trees dancing to the thundering tunes.

Like towns by the sea, and those by the lake and mountains, where people come to live in expectation of a uniform weather, can’t we have towns where grief is momentary, glee a lasting season?


It happened yet again.
How many times
after you really understand?
Manipulated, exploited–excruciating pain,
for you they all turned out to be games.
In a land with no beaches,
Mountains I heard and yes, trees with leeches.
‘It’s just a statement’–but times changed.
And so did the seasons.
When temperatures dropped below
I only had cold dry winds that blew,
taking me away from us, from me and you.
The city no longer existed – the memories, laughs or the trees,
Nor did the bling that connected it with you.
And then the chains, the winters came-
the new year that brought you.

You blame me for knowing.
But how would I know?
Oh yes, the hints. The cues,
that shit.
The needles kept pricking,
and the time kept ticking
Until one day
I lost my friend–I lost you.
Only the climax was,
I was this close to changing you.

A poem never written

I heard her say, ‘I feel like a badly written poem.’

I told her to thank goodness, at least someone wrote her. But she wasn’t satisfied.

It’s better to feel like a badly written poem than a poem that has never been written. A poem that waits for her story to be told, shared or simply written in a private journal for the sake of satisfaction of jotting it down.

A poem that cries to be written, no matter if it is crumpled later and thrown in a corner of the room, picked up in the morning and thrown away in the garbage. It’s okay to be a badly written poem.

At least being part of the garbage would mean someone would recycle it, give it a new life.

A badly written poem with a new life, ready to inspire the one who buys the paper.

I had told her.

A badly written poem is not as bad as a poem which has not been written at all.