Weighing a girl, a woman and a mother

Hiba Schahbaz's Self Portrait
Hiba Schahbaz’s Self Portrait

Every day when the sun hides behind trees
A girl rides past my house
I look at her through the windows of my room.
She goes around again and again
until she gets tired.
She does too many things at once,
bark back at the dog following her
greet salam to the strangers walking by
stop to smell the yellow flower
and I wonder what scent it bears for her?
As she pushes on her pedals
her head sways back and forth
as if a song stuck inside her head.
She completes half another lap,
abandon her smile on the ground and goes home.

I drink my Sulaimani
and do not wash my cup for a day.
I am a woman
I do not know how to cook food not dream
about husbands and weddings
I have not smelled enough flowers
or held enough lovers on my breasts.
I am half-man half-woman, they mocked.
My god does not love me, I am told
because I lighted cigarettes
Harami, I was called.
My sujoods were incomplete
I was branded khafir to my Lord.
My worth is the dirty cups stacked in my room,
the outlawed ink under my bra line,
the hairs that crawled out my underwear.

Every single day for twenty-three years
A mother– who runs around the house
morning, evening and night
doing too many things at once.
checking if everyone ate enough
making gharam chai four times a day
carrying dirty plates in both hands and naked regret
among putrid stench of fish
soaking khajoor every night
to feed health into her husband
cleaning every dusty furniture so that
her daughter doesn’t sneeze too much at night and wakes the sleeping man.
I wonder when was the last time
she stopped and listened to her
favourite ghazal,
the last time Ammi smelled the
flowers in her Gulshan,
the last time she looked at her
daughter and caressed the dust
settling at the sickness of her pale heart,
the last time she weighed her dil for
more than one fertile womb, six
cents of land and ten sovereign gold.

Raneesha Rafeek