Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 4



Momina Akber Khan


Coloring in the White Spaces

Whisper oh Whisper I can’t hear you

where do you reside?
in white papers
behind bold printing
beneath bright images
I dwell in contested spaces

Silence oh Silence I can’t see you

where do you reside?
in white papers
behind eurocentric knowledge
beneath dominant voices
I dwell in fractured places

Why are you invisible though?

I want to hear you
are you sure?
bring me a coloring book
open a new chapter
color in the white spaces

Can you Hear me now?

I want to see you
are you sure?
bring me a paper
sketch your face on it
paint it with a color different than yours


Can you See me now


who are you?
I am a race       a colonized existence
I am an accent       an excluded epistemology
I am a color              a politicized understanding
I am the other               a ruptured perception
I am a gender                   a dismissed voice
I am a religion                       a victimized belief
I am a difference                      a visible minority




I am a hybrid
an invisible identity
I am a beauty of the broken things

Can you Feel me now?




Children of the Stone

Born from the stone, raised by the plains, smiled upon by the sky,
                                                   they are the Children of the Stone.
                                                           They dream of jovial stars, the vile planets
                                                                    and the celestial pair, the Sun and the Moon.


Teased by the forests, taught by the desert, liberated by the arctic.
                                     The Children of the Stone reach adolescence,
                                            they spill bugs upon the grass, weave warmth into the moss
                                                                     and paint color onto the flowers.


Loved by the sea, admired by the mountains, kindled by the tropics.
                                    The Earth is their dwelling to collect, create, and recreate.
                                                                   The Children of the Stone reach adulthood,
                                                                             their youthful hands begin to scar.


Enticed by the caves, avoided by the fissures, chased by the prairies.
                                        The Children of the Stone are universal in identity,
                                                 they are known as creators, as nature’s origin,
                                                                they have reached their elder years.


Worn hands, kind eyes, lined faces.
                                     Born from the Stone, received by the wind,
                                                  they become the childish breeze
                                                        that rushes past the grass, flowers and leaves.
                                                                      they can finally see the Universe.




A Furnace Room Encounter

urge to emerge
from East to West
from West to Quest
from Alif to Ye
from A to Z
from unknown to known
from learn to unlearn
search for a room continues
rushing to find a room
the only option, running upstairs
I reach the quietest room in the house - an Attic
pin drop Silence
for me, it begins
in the East, an insider
singularity of identity
similarity of beliefs
familiarity of land
particularity of being
repeated rhythms
homogeneity of voices
living among family
sharing same stories
knitting vibrant cloth
cooking together in the kitchen
nostalgic aroma of spices
eating naturally grown fruit
sun feels warmer
the sounds so familiar
the chanting of Adhan
wrapped in the softness
of humility, love, and longing
yelling of vendors
selling spicy goods
the cheering voices of kids
playing cricket in the streets
the honking noises of rickshaws
tapping of barefooted beggars
on gilded gates
heavy quilts of smog
powdering the horizon
cobbled streets forming
blinding storms of dust
a loud bang,
a familiar sound
a bomb blast in the corner
my city
then another city
Now
in the whole country
it can’t be true
hard to sleep
to the sound
of my country’s
cacophony
quest for change begins
a challenging journey ahead
things becoming louder, messier
hot and unsafe
deliberation extant
chaotic contemplation in peace
Now, I can hear the echo of my breath.

Across seven seas, now
in the midst, of
a difficult journey
rushing to find a room
the only option, running down stairs
I reach the loudest room in the house - the Furnace Room
ear-splitting Noise
in the West, an outsider
plurality of identity
multiplicity of beliefs
unfamiliarity of land
universality of being
sporadic rhythms
heterogeneity of voices
and choices
truly a flight of fantasy
this is not real
colossal buildings stationed
closely to each other
seem to stretch
all the way to the clouds
structures so tall
immaculate
foreign air
rushes through my lungs
feel so purified and distilled
urge to question
freeze on the spot
awed by how
the sun seems so bright
beautiful fair faces
tolling of church bells
this new world
painted
with shades of white
deeply and utterly
different from the one
I just came from
questions tossed
faithfully
“Where are you from?”
and
“Where is home?”
identity negotiation
a new beginning
what makes me different
me or my color
custom or costume
culture or ethnicity
race or religion
values or beliefs
language or accent
reflecting self
in relation
to self and others
a minority
in a majority
things becoming louder, messier,
cold and insecure
deliberation extant
peaceful contemplation in chaos
Finally, I can hear the echo of my soul.
emerge to submerge

Reborn
deep down
into the ocean
I can’t
hear
see
touch
taste
or
smell
At last,
I can
Breathe
feeling
evolving
mindfulness
fluid consciousness
to lose
myself
in chaos
becoming fully human
speaking by listening
seeing by feeling
receiving by giving
reliving
Reborn
neither from a tormented soul
nor from a utopian dream
Freedom emanates
from the soul’s periphery
born from
a silent epiphany


Momina Akber Khan: "I am a mother raising four children with dual identities, languages, cultures and nationalities. Currently I am completing my PhD at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. My existence as an amateur poet has grown between my two homes in which I have transitioned my writing from a right-to-left beginning (Urdu) in the East to a left-to-right ending (English) in the West. Poetry forces me to look and think twice, not just over the poems themselves, but at myself, my children, the world, life, and the people around me. Through poetry, I find my truest expression of soul, self, and thought. My work has appeared in the University of Saskatchewan’s In Media Res journal and is forthcoming in Education Matters: Journal of Teaching and Learning and Arts/Research International Journal: A Transdisciplinary Journal."




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