Two Poems

By: Fatima Malik

Cognitive dissonance

They say/ The funeral procession was enormous/ In a religion where how well you do is directly proportional to the number of people putting in a good word for you/ At the time of departure/ That is something/ I guess/ I wouldn’t know/ I wasn’t there/ Three older brothers too old to be pallbearers/ Their sons doing their duty/ And ours/ Since girls don’t go to graveyards/ You see/ Down the pockmarked street they took you/ Past the manicured graveyard for the fancier gated community/ Beyond the newly built gas station/ And the shuttered restaurant/ The hardware store you frequented/ All markers you pointed out on my yearly visits to you/ Out to the new graveyard with only a handful of denizens/ Covered the fresh earth/ With blood red/ Roses/ In the days since/ I visited every day/ The petals wilted and drying/ As I stood there trying/ To reconcile/ Perception with reality/ That wasn’t my lionhearted father lying underneath that earth/ A man so alive I measured life by the units of his momentum/ That must be someone else/ A stranger/ Close my eyes/ I see/ My father is at his morning walk/ My father is at work swiveling in his chair/ My father is at the masjid/ My father is on the roof fixing the water tank/ My father is in his garden among his flowers/      

Seeing the Body

My sister Hafsa has a photo                 on her phone               She took this photo for us

the four daughters who weren’t                       there                 They weren’t there when           Say it     

             She thought maybe we will want to see                       Maybe we will want to say       

Goodbye                         There are many things I want            I want him back                         I want       

to hear his voice             The way he said                        Maza aaya na Uju?                    I want him to

tell people                       My eldest daughter                  She is the smartest                  This photo

             My sister thought                         maybe we will want to see                 I for one do not want

to see                 My father is alive in my head                   He is Javed               the first name on my

child lips                         He is eternal                     Tell me how this photo will help                  I think

maybe it is meant to help with moving forward                           not moving on                      The

only way past grief                      is through it                    I think my sister Rumesa saw it

              I don’t think I’m going to                    I like to think of my father alive                         He was

so alive              I used to think he would live forever              I used to hold his hand in mine

              Palm upturned                          Wonder at the pink and pulse of his thenar and hypothenar

eminence                       On the black of my retinas                   he is always in motion              Of no

use to me                        is his lifeless image                   When I picture my father                     I don’t

want to picture                             a body

Fatima Malik (she/her) is a fundraiser and poet with work published in dreams walking, perhappened mag, Golden Walkman Magazine, seiren, and the winnow. She is currently working on her first full-length collection of poems, Elegies Burnished by Memory Flame, an excavation of grief after her father’s sudden death. She has a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a joint MA in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from New York University. While she currently lives in New York City, her heart is forever in Lahore.