Inam Kang | Poetry

EVERYTHING MY FATHER LEARNED ABOUT SOFTNESS

he learned from my mother
and a fake, soft spawn.
and i’m false, but tender.
i wrenched the gut,
i mean really wound up
the metal tool of
his skin resting
right under his ribs
and i let the good in him
sit in that for a while.
but really, he learned
from his mother.
she came first and
i know it because she
held me and named me.
said this one might
kill us or save us.
that was a blessing in my
parents’ guts because it had
to be. abu makes it clear:
she used to know
nothing of medicine
but nobody got sick, everything
of prayer but still he
knows nothing of getting
his kids into jannah.

………………………………….[me, hugging him from behind; him, a smile sprouting in surprise]

we say jannah so often,
not once has retirement
been on the table. my
dad swerves to avoid
a bird on the freeway.
he pulls the car over
when it dents his bumper
and runs to it
with a water bottle.
nothing that works forever
dies on his watch
after everything he’s learned.
that won’t be forever.
know that. if you need
to know anything at the
end of my father’s long, long
listening, it’s that my
grandmother died
on jummah’s morning.
it was holy in sheets and her
nose turned blue slowly.

………………………………….[me, too big to jump into his arms; him, still breaking back & catching]

my dad learned the weight
of a long push. his fingernails
became dirty and
there a salt, there
body with no use in
the ground, still teaching.
and when i put my hand on
his shoulder that day,
he collapsed
every single time.
bunda bun, bunda bun ja.
every time i cry,
i hear him say it.
be a man.
become a man.
and still, i know there’s a
home in it for him,
where i fold at hip to
pick him from the
grass. i say soft and i
mean it.

………………………………….[me, shouting in a doorway; him, receding and receding]

i say soft like once,
in the driveway,
he was trimming my
mother’s rose bushes
and took a glove off to
offer me his water
with a hand on my shoulder.
this was his break.
i looked him in his mouth
and asked him to
speak to me in surah.
his tender chest
too good a student,
so he spoke
warning instead. we cried in
a car ride. i drove
to a new city. in calls,
we miss each other
like late riots of bugs
in a forest, the same ones
that visit his bushes.

………………………………….[me, tense & admitting gunnah; him, heavy sob in a front seat]

there was so much talk
of a funeral the day
i introduced myself.
like an impulse, he brushed
it out of the moment
and i mean it was
juiced into a pulp-
palatable, zested
and down the hatch. he
talked of a burial.
and then we ate dinner.
we went for a
walk. we drank
chai. nobody in any
sort of casket.

………………………………….[me, alive; him, too]

.

.

.

WHAT’S THE SUN ANYWAYS

once, i told a classmate my family
could rain spice from their hands
just by rubbing them together &

he said magic was unsafe- …….once,
my mother came to visit me and
all she did was pray in my bedroom

and throw out my pork-………..once,
i had a lover tell my mother he
was my friend and when he died,

my mother cried when i slept-
…….once, she let me dream of
god and our good home-……once,

bad men told me i was commodity
and i kissed them just to fill
the empty time –…….once, i made

a cake for my loves when the flowers
made the street sweet with smell
and pigment-…….we went back home-

we held each other’s names
in our mouths with big love and
clove-once i asked my garden

if they were held and holding
they smiled
…….…….…….and that became
the country i set on my bedside at

the end of the day-……the one that i wake
to and look out on with a chai in my
hand-…….like my mother taught me to

summon in a pot with all the batches
burned into its caked bottom-…….that
can be the one i return to when

the ground becomes my husband-
the one i stand in and say-…….alhamdulillah
i have a place to return to after all

Inam Kang is a Pakistani-born poet, student, and curator. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Margins, and other journals and anthologies. He splits his time working and living between Cleveland and Southeastern Michigan.

2018-12-10T19:20:21+00:00