In the afternoon time becomes
the oil dripping off flatbread fresh
from the stove in my childhood home.
We don’t have language for those fifteen minutes between
the muezzin’s exhales. All we have is
the phlegm rattling in his throat and the verse:
Say, God is one, God is refuge.
Repeat it to the black stone
in the land of your prophet.
For a long time, it used to be full of idols, that stone,
back when the Arabs worshiped the Three Daughters
but you won’t find their names anywhere these days.
If I were a black stone, who would I have carried?
Yes, I see the idols now: stupid little girls made of stacked pebbles.
Which apostle will come to knock you down, child?
Say, God is death, God is rebirth.
O teenage bloodstain,
You teeter between saint and sinner,
This world and the next.
Which pagan will come to put you back together, o pile of stones?
Haniya Shariq Khan is fifteen years old and lives in Lahore, Pakistan. In her spare time, she likes writing stories nobody will ever read, doing macrame, and practicing her embroidery.
*The poem is mostly about the death of the old self and religion is my metaphor of choice. It takes a lot of inspiration from my Muslim roots and my fascination with pre-Islamic Arabia. In the religion of pre-Islamic Arabia, the Three Daughters were the goddesses Al-Manat, Al-Lat, and Al-‘Uzza, daughters of the chief god, Hubal. They, along with the rest of the pantheon, were worshipped at the Kaaba (which is also referred to in the Qur’an as the black stone), which is something that’s always struck me as ironic because the Kaaba is considered the holiest place in the world for Muslims but it once housed the gods of another people. So, I use the Kaaba as an allegory for change — maybe someday it’ll be ironic that I was this way, because I’ll be completely different in the future.
The stacked pebbles are a reference to the way some historians believe indigenous Arabian idols may have looked. Some were apparently represented by circles of raised stone, others were carved out of a singular slab, and others still as cairns. I was pretty fascinated by the idea of cairns, since in theory you could just go and knock it down, but pure faith prevents you from doing so. When I refer to myself as carrying idols made of stacked pebbles, I’m talking about how flimsy my beliefs are, how easily you could collapse them. The apostle coming to knock them down is a reference to the way thousands of idols were destroyed with the rise of Islam and its prophet (PBUH). So, who’s going to come and change my outlook on life?