A Poem by Haniya Shariq Khan
Finding God & My Grandfather in Property Deeds
The shroud has no pockets.
-Classical Arabic proverb
This is all that’s left of his body now, these binders thick as cement slabs and the arachnid scrawl of his architect, writing his name over and over as though he were the prayer itself, the assertion of true faith. In every margin of every page of these archives, the paper thin as the skin of his aged hand,
I find this man living, I read him rather than know him. Every day I pull him from the grave — every day I gather these pages white as his bones and I put the man together, I beseech him to be whole.
It was in the house of my grandfather that I first heard the voice of God as the singing of a swarm of locusts, His presence dark and slow as molasses. I see little of the house these days; for a time I saw little of God.
Say you are handed some five hundred pages worth of a human man’s imprint upon the earth. Say your thoughts are thick as if coated with honey, and suddenly you want to make a holy book of these pages. Say you want to rearrange the letters into God’s own word, that every poem you write is an endeavour. Say you are panning gold from a barren river and the tears wetting your cheeks belong to someone else.
I don’t know what I would do in the presence of an archangel. I don’t know what I would say to the shroud.
Haniya Shariq Khan is sixteen years old, a lover of summer nights, and a balcony enthusiast. Her hobbies include applying endless layers of chapstick and trying to organise her tropical storm of a stream of consciousness into cohesive pieces of writing.