This City, My City (after Fatimah Asghar)

A white womxn speaks to me,

Who are your people, where are you from?

West Philly, I reply.

Where are you from?

I am African-American.

I mean your ancestry. Where are really you from?

I do not know.

You do not know?

I do not know.

I do know this city, my city:
That when I open my eyes and look at my people
I see hurricane
I ask her,
How do you quiet storm? How do you secret everlasting strength?

“these are my people & I find
them on the street & shadow . . .”

  1. Uncle Khaled’s molar teeth gnaw on miswak on the MFL train platform
    In his good Nike’s and black thobe at asr prayer time
  2. Ayah sucks all of the Cheetos dust off of her fingers
    One at a time beneath the Ramadan Moon
  3. Bilal, the reincarnated muadhin of the 4th floor of the middle school rides his bike down
    Parkside Avenue with his friends. But only on the back wheel
    Allah dog tags around necks and starched white tees. Shape-ups and hair grease
  4. Angela drives the 10 trolley, west
    Her voice greets me, salaam

And if shahid becomes a prefix to my name, ya Allah, my Allah
Let them catch me, too
Glasses off
Magnolia blossom in hand
The petals falling as snowflakes. The dissonance of gold and silver
Please let them remember me as more than this not knowing
Let them remember me as I remember them
More than an exotic fish, in or outside of water

We are an entire storm —
This fully formed Black Muslim West Philadelphia,
A jagged, clawed thing
Bearing its teeth. Tenderly

“This City, My City” by Husnaa Hashim. Used with permission of the poet.

This poem was originally read in the unedited version of the On Being episode “Called and Conflicted.”