December 1, 2021

Image Credit: Tool Dude8mm via Flickr

I think often of the many ways we teach others how to treat us, whether or not we realize it. As I watch loved ones grow older, I wonder what they have already taught me in preparation for living without them, what aspects of their traditions I will continue after they are gone. Ahmed's poem allowed me to meditate on what we give back to those who have passed and what we will give to those who outlive us.

—Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor

A Ghazal For Burying My Father

i only write of the dead. of my father, how i now wrap him with an egyptian flag. when i was
five, he prepared me to bear his weight down sugar street. he gave

me a shovel and taught me dirt, his grave. he’d wake me before fajr prayer with crust still in my
eyes. anes, he said. let’s go. i washed my face and he gave

me bread and goat cheese. we ate in silence. father had panic attacks (allah, he said, gave him
ghosts). his father drowned journeying to our well. his back gave

in when pulling the metal bucket. my father was fifteen when he found the water red. he is now
fifty, and he still talks to his father instead of sleeping. i saw him, anes. i gave

him that. he took me to the farm and taught me digging. taught me smoke too. played it around
his mouth like a dragon, a fire eating every building angle, filling his lungs. it gave 

him himself again. it gave me the rest of him now. i wonder if he knew the ghost he was nursing
with every smoke? it doesn’t matter. i got a shovel, dirt and pen. i can give.



N.S. Ahmed

N.S. Ahmed is a first-generation Egyptian-American poet, playwright, fictional writer, and visual artist based in New York City. His work blends traditional Arabic storytelling, folktales, and songs with contemporary poetic and experimental forms to examine the lives, existential predicaments, and narratives of Arabic and Arabic-American people.