They taught us the word sorry… but not much else

One of the first things we learnt as children was to say sorry,

Even if perhaps we didn’t know what it meant,

And that sorry was for shouting

Or not sharing

And after breaking mom’s favorite vase


But they didn’t teach us that sorry would change,

Sorry for shouting became sorry for speaking,

Sorry for not sharing toys became sorry for not sharing secrets,


And there were new sorry’s too,

Sorry’s we never knew

Sorry for laughing too hard, or not enough,

Sorry for loving too much, feeling too deep,

Sorry for being awkward,  for being sad,  for being hurt

And most of all, sorry for letting it show,


They didn’t teach us sorry could become monotonous,

A record playing over and over

Sorry can be a catch phrase

Said so often it becomes a wall.

And where once there was an afterglow of saying sorry ,

Now sorry is just used to push you out of the way,

A familiar ritual that long lost its symbolism


We never were told,

That sorry would be a word,

Spilled from our lips,

For every mistake, even when they were none,

To cover uncertainty and hesitance,

Sorry was a plea for understanding – a bitter drink in our mouths.


They didn’t let us know sorry could be meaningless,

Something to break the silence, something said for the sake of saying,

Sorry for sickness, sorry for death,

Sorry for a repeated sin,

Sorry could become an excuse.


They didn’t tell us sorry was an expectation,

Of forgiveness,

Even when bruises are still fresh

And wounds too open

Sorry is a hastily wrapped bandage that can’t stop the bleeding.


They didn’t tell us sorry wasn’t a magic wand,

Fixing up broken vases like superglue,

Instead sorry is duct tape,

Applied clumsily to jagged ends and raw nerves,

And you can still plainly see cracks,

And perhaps always will


They forgot to mention too,

About saying sorry to yourself

In the mirror.

To eyes haunted by past mistakes,

And the imprints of finger-nails left on sweaty palms,

As you force yourself to get through another day,

You never learnt to say sorry for that

And you choke on it even now


They taught us to say sorry,

But with all we learnt afterwards,

Perhaps it wasn’t worth teaching at all.








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My mother often looks at me with a strange look in her eyes,
Like her heart is saying one thing,
And her mouth wants to say something else,
Because my mother feels deep,
Oceans and oceans beneath skin,
And she never quite got used to the way,
I explode at the surface.
It is almost like,
With her pursed up lips,
She wants to tell me to be cautious Sahar,
Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve,
While the deeper part of her,
Loves the way I can rejoice,
It’s like she wants to say,
Dream big Sahar, dream high,
But she’s torn because she wants to warn me about bruises,
Should I fall,
Big black and blue flowers that spread across my path,
And leave a scent of regret.

I sometimes stare at her hands,
Neat calm hands,
That flit like little birds,
Folding tissues, and stirring pots,
And smoothing the hair away from my forehead,
Which in a thousand years,
Noone could ever do so gently,
and yet still brush away my troubles away so firmly,
I watch those hands,
And I imagine them trying to teach me patience,
While both of mine are trying to grab life as fast as it comes,

The most beautiful part of my mother,
Are her eyes,
They fill every cliche,
Soft, gentle and wise,
I imagine that when I first looked into them,
I must have cried,
At what I saw.
I still see too much in my mother’s eyes.
I’ve seen joy and pain and tears of both,
I’ve seen pride and disappointment,
Each shaking me to my core,
But what makes Mama’s eyes,
My own miracle,
My haven,
My lighthouse on stormy nights,
Is the love that shines,
As bright as a galaxy,
With unwavering light.

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You and I, My Friend

You and I, my friend.
We were meant to be warriors.

Why, you ask me?

Because our bruised hearts have blood red shields,
Reinforced with hurt and betrayal,
And covered in the barbed wire of caution.

Because we have been fighting a war since we were 5 years old,
And our mothers first told us to be careful of men,
And twitched the hems of our dresses,
As low as they could go,
While we looked at her confused.

Because you and I have found every classroom,
Every job interview, every office desk,
A battlefield in which to prove that our strength is different,
From millennia of oppression,
And our courage is deeper,
Because of millennia of oppression,
And being told we can’t

Are you convinced yet? No? Then…

You and I my friend, learnt the hard way,
That swords can come in the form of tongues speaking sweet soft lies,
And arrows from loved ones hurt more than any shot by enemies,
We live to remember and bandage up every wound till they shrink to scars,
And then we take them as lessons,
And live to fight yet another day,

And the neighbor Mrs. Ahmeds comment that we are too tall,
And Mrs. Parveen, your mothers old school friend’s sly look at our dark skin,
Mr. Ali, the man who boasts up and down the office that he got his daughters married at 18,
and his disapproving sniff as our result card shows more As than his sons does,
And Madam Fatima saying no, Hamza will do it because he is a boy,
And your old class fellow Tipu saying WHAT? A pilot?! But you’re a girl!
Are just some of the opponents that you and I have ducked and swerved away from,
Have cut down and spat upon,
But never defeated because like hydra,
Where one head is cut off, three more take its place,
And you and I, my friend have cut down a lot of heads.

You and I friend are warriors of all kinds,

Like men had their weapons changed so have we,
Like they have gone from spears to swords to catapults to guns to tanks to bombs,
We went from grades to university to cigarettes to jobs to making our own goddamn choices.

Choices, my friend.

You and I are warriors because we made choices.
Chose to love and laugh and cry and make ourselves vulnerable,
Because that too is a fight when the world is so insistent that you must,
Put on jaded smiles and look with bored eyes.

We chose to stand and fight while some of our comrades laid down arms,
Saying the sword was too heavy,
Retreat was easy,
And maybe… just maybe… the enemy is right.

We chose not to listen to them my friend,
And we choose not to give in.
We choose to be here arm in arm
Heart in heart
And we choose to survive

And if that isn’t being a warrior my friend.

I don’t know what is.

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Please Forgive Me

“Please forgive me” I think,
As I trace the wrinkles,
On your bearded cheek,

Please forgive me for when I was two,
And screamed and cried,
Robbing you of sleep,

And for when I was five,
And rammed my bicycle so hard in your leg,
You limped for a week,

“Please forgive me” I whisper
As you stare out the window
At swirling specks of dust,

Please forgive me for when I was 8,
And first lied to you,
Broke your trust,

And the disappointment on your face,
As you taught me,
That honesty is a must

“Please forgive me” I say,
Even though you don’t hear,
And look out with unseeing eyes,

Please forgive me the teenage tantrums,
And rebellion,
And every roll of my eyes

And for my callous disregard,
My sulking silences,
My condescending sighs,

“Please forgive me” I cry,
Even though you don’t remember,
You don’t understand,

Please forgive those moments now long gone,
I could have spent with you,
Lost moments in the sand,

And the rage that overtakes me,
Of helplessness and frustration,
Of more sadness than I can stand,

Please forgive me,
Though you no longer know the words,
No longer know me,


Please forgive me for not knowing how to fight a war,
How to beat,
An invisible enemy,

And for letting you go,

Piece by piece,

I’m so sorry.



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Tick Tock

He told her to wait for him,

And she tried


To hold onto barely there wisps,

Of a relationship,

Formed when they were nineteen


But when days turned to weeks,

And weeks into months,

She grew hard and cold,

As each passing winter,

Left its mark on her.


Fear is an interesting thing,

As it merges with each breath,

You inhale into weary lungs,

And drums along,

With hopeless heartbeats,


Till you no longer remember,

A world without it,

A life without it,

And it consumes you,

And your empty shell of patience.


She had waited,

Far too long she decided,

And tied her life,

With apron strings and wedding rings,

To another man,


All to escape her fear,

Of being alone,

And hollow,

And to silence the endless countdown,

Of an inner clock.


But in a grey home,

In a grey world,

With a grey man,

She found herself still waiting,

And she didn’t even know for what


Waiting for color,

And noise,

And her tired forlorn heart

To beat with something,

Instead of just blood


And she soon realized,

Being without fear,

Can sometimes be its own cage

And sometimes sorrow,

Can be worth the pain


But it doesn’t matter now,

As she waits for

That elusive something,

Tick tock

She whispers mockingly to herself

Tick tock

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Mama, Am I a Woman Yet?

My mother told me,

Only big girls wear lipstick,


Five years old,

And her red one,

Is smeared all over my mouth,

Mama, am I a woman yet?


My sister told me,

I would change,


Eleven years old

And I feel it happening,

See it in the mirror,

Mama, am I a woman yet?


Daddy told me,

To be careful when I go out now,


Thirteen years old,

And men watch me on streets,

And though I don’t know why,

Mama, am I a woman yet?


The other girls told me,

Love is a part of growing up,


Fifteen years old,

And a boy in class,

Looks so cute,

Mama, am I a woman yet?


My friends told me,

Heartbreak made you wiser


Sixteen years old,

And crying,

Because he likes someone else,

Mama, am I a woman yet?


The boys say,

I’m not pretty enough,


Eighteen years old,

And too much make up,

And tight clothes that aren’t mine,

Mama, am I woman yet?


Men say,

I know nothing of the world,



And I hear the words they use about us girls,

And it makes me sick inside

Mama, am I a woman yet?


He says,

Until I trust, I’ll never know,



He left me,

Promises unfulfilled

Mama, am I a woman yet?


Today I said,

I don’t care what they say,


And Mama says,

Smiling at me,

With her red lipsticked mouth,

Baby, you’re a woman now.

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I’m Okay

“Nothing is wrong” she says assuredly,

Turning her eyes away so you can’t see red rims,


“Everything’s fine” she laughs playfully,

Moving her face to the side as her smile dims.


“I’m not hiding anything” she protests earnestly,

As she tugs her sleeve lower over her arms,


“It’s nothing” she denies smilingly,

As you see grooves of nail marks on her palms,


“I’m not scared” she shakes her head fervently,

While her clutching fingers turn white


“Don’t worry” she pleads beseechingly,

As she stays awake all night,


“I’ll be better tomorrow” she claims hopefully,

As tears leak unseen on her pillow


“I’m okay” she lies whisperingly,

The truth they won’t ever know.

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The Monster Inside Me

I put the eggs on his plate,
He pours milk in my coffee,
I smile at him,
And he smiles back at me,
But he doesn’t know,
And he doesn’t see,
The monster that’s there,
Inside of me

He calls me from his office,
I was staring with dead eyes at the wall,
No honey, everythings okay,
Nothing wrong at all,
He doesn’t hear,
And he doesn’t see,
He doesn’t know,
There’s a monster inside of me.

He makes a silly joke,
As we go out to eat,
I laugh and put my mask on.
As he pulls out my seat,
Because he shouldn’t know,
Shouldn’t have to see,
Shouldn’t have to live,
With the monster inside of me.

He calls me sweet names,
And holds my hand in the car,
I quietly smooth over the band-aid,
That’s hiding my new scar,
Because he can’t know,
He can’t ever see,
He mustn’t find out,
There’s a monster inside of me.

He tells me he loves me,
As he kisses me goodnight,
I pull the blankets over us,
There’s a cold within me tonight,
I won’t let him feel it,
I won’t let him see,
I won’t let him find out,
There’s a monster inside of me.

But I can’t stop the sobs,
That choke me every night,
He asks sleepily what’s wrong,
I whisper “I’m alright”
Because I am as long as he doesn’t know,
For his sake I pray and plea,
I’ll save him from ever knowing,
The monster inside me.

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Black and Blue

Whenever they’ve asked me,
I’ve always said,
My favorite colors
Are black and blue.

My badge of honor,
My mark of shame,
My last memories
Of you

The color of the sky,
And freedom unbound,
And the color of,
Jail cell bars

The color of turbulent
Storms and water,
The color of the backdrop,
Of the stars.

The color of ink,
On a last letter goodbye,
The color of molten wax,
That made the seal.

The color of serenity
Of peace after war,
The color of mourning,
Of the numbness I feel,

The color of bruises,
And battles,
And hopelessness,
Of you

Everytime they asked me,
I said,
My favorite colors,
Are black and blue.

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I Looked for You

I looked for You,

In the quiet watches of the dark,

In the silence of the night,



I looked for You,

In the brilliant glow of dawn,

In the morning sunlight



I looked for You,

In musty old pages,

Of books written long ago,



I looked for You,

In the words of the past,

In the promises of tomorrow,



But when I did find You,

It was in the last places,

I chose to look to,



It was in me,

In my soul,

That I finally found You,



I found You,


Arms spread out for me,



I found You in laughter,

In joy,

In a childish smile of glee,



I found You in waiting,

In sorrow,

In every tear I shed,



I found You in black,

In white,

In shades of blood red,



I found You in life,

In the miracle,

Of every breath



And at last I found You,

Waiting for me,

When I closed my eyes in Death

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