Sheena Raza Faisal

the glossary

janamaz: a fidgeting rectangle, the smell of carpet softened by massaging feet. there are few
               places in this world my body is safe. the edge of a rug. the sharp line of a grave. there
               are few borders in this world i choose to respect, but here is one. a child’s body is not
               built to stay still, but we learn quickly. we stiffen. one rakah, watching my father on the
               left. two rakah, the cotton wrapped tightly and tucked under my chin.

tasbih: a handful of baby teeth, counted by hand until the ridges wear smooth. the plastic bead
          necklace i made at age 8, my mother still keeps it in her best jewelry box. a prayer relying
          on the laws of mathematics. if we can just get the numbers right, the rest will eventually
          coil into place.

tawiz: a scrap of green fabric, cat curled tightly into itself, my grandmother’s palm folded in half,
         then half, then half again. we do what we can to keep our children safe. we do anything
         we can to keep our children safe. we hide them away in the sock drawer. we fold their
         bodies between paper, sew their names into cloth, bind with ropes of their hair. if we can
        just fold it small enough, knot it around the neck tight enough, maybe they will survive this

sajda: so here we are. open back, exposed neck. we have known so little of safety for so long, it
          is easy to relinquish willingly. and still, do we not kneel? after kneeling, do we not rise?
          and on the most cloudy night of the month, do we not still watch for the moon? and my
          father kisses his forehead to the floor, and the floor kisses back. and when i say goodbye,
          i hold the weight of parting on my ankles, knees, palms.

jannat: the garden. the somewhere else. somewhere, finally. the blood runs to milk. all the
            mothers returned from the soil. every familiar, long-forgotten face, the uncle with
            crooked teeth in the white kurta, remember the embroidery? remember the purple fruit
            that puckers your tongue? here, there are enough trees for all us children, every cousin is
            fed and laughing. here, enough air that whiteness cannot steal from my lungs. there is a
          place, here, that holds me so close and carefully to its rock that no hand can pull me from
           myself again. this time, it is fear who has a name unpronounceable by all. somewhere,
           here, my great grandmother dies with hair still neatly plaited, and i know they will bury
          me three plots down, the whole family, earth to earth. grave-soil that refuses to split or to
           border. only knows to sleep and to grow.

Sheena Raza Faisal is a Muslim poet from Mumbai, currently an undergraduate at Brown University. All her spoons are stained with turmeric. You can find her on twitter @sheena_rf.

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