“True Friend” by Ayesha F. Hamid

When you thought you could stop caring
for people who never cared for you,
but then realize you will always care
because that is what you do,
as long as your heart beats
and red blood pushes
forward and through
into your body
into your mind,
a kaleidoscope of care and concern,
your heart filled with the need
to hold everyone up, to make sure
that no one is left behind in life
or suffering from strife.
Those who betray never care
about leaving you there,
though you still do, faithful forever,
bearing much, a true friend
from now until the end.

“Winter Freeze” by Ayesha F. Hamid

Winter

The cold December frost made my teeth chatter involuntarily as I came out of Kroger’s grocery store. I remember I needed red and green lace for my second grade social studies project, which would depict various holiday themes of the season. Hurrying through the parking lot, I searched for the cream-colored Chevrolet. It was so cold and all I could think about was getting into the car. Finally, the door unlocked and entry was permitted. Relieved by the warm air, I felt the blood in my face and hands return to regularity. Noticing the mist form on the windows, I wiped it away with my pastel blue sweater. I looked at the embroidered edge of the pretty blue sleeve. As my eyes moved from the interesting lines of the sweater back to the window, I noticed a tall, thin stranger approaching our vehicle.

“Let’s go,” I said to my parents. The stranger frightened me because it seemed as though in between his skin and bones he contained no noticeable amount of flesh. His forehead and cheekbones protruded greatly giving him the look of some ghoulish skeleton that had wandered far from his place of burial. My father trustingly rolled down the window.

“Clean your windows, mister?” the skeleton asked my dad with a painful apprehension.

“All right,” my father replied.

Encouraged by the reply, his long, ripped fingers moved to a badly torn pocket to take out an ice scraper and rag. I watched on with curiosity. He noticed my glance and returned it with an awkward yet prepossessing smile. The smile was not from any obligation on his part and made me feel strangely guilty for having been so afraid of him simply for his appearance. He cleaned the small layer of residue that had formed on the windows. The ice scraper made a funny, screeching sound, which held an echo in my ear. As he moved from window to window, my eyes followed him without flinching.

“Done, sir,” he stated after a minute. His hand shivered slightly as he held out his hand for the money which he had earned. He must be cold, I suddenly thought to myself.

“Thank you, sir,” he said before he walked away. Though the payment my father had given the stranger did not amount to a huge sum, it was enough for him to buy a cup of coffee which would warm him for at least a minute before he would again leave the warmth for a winter of frozen skin and frozen dreams.

Note: this piece was the recipient of The American Association of University Women’s (Lansdale Branch) Excellence in Writing Award and was originally published in the 1996 Anthology of Poetry and Prose.

“Fear” by Ayesha F. Hamid

The eighteen wheeler drives by
red, green, and blue on the sides
speeding on, screeching at turns,
causing a fear of life,
a fear of death, a feeling which turns
as the wheels turn
sounds drilling down
deep into marrow before hitting the ground.

The truck passes, the sound dims
so all the fear felt quiets and passes.

Regret is realized as all that time
that was swept, the fear taking away
most moments till nothing was left.

“Simplicity” by Ayesha F. Hamid

I wish I didn’t think of you every time
I ate ice cream but I’m reminded
of the ritual of dinners on Fridays,
and the ice cream afterwards.

If only vanilla or strawberry had sufficed
we wouldn’t have had that fight. 

We could have continued
to talk and laugh and thrive
a whole world left for us to explore
though to traveling with me,
you always said no.

Simply put, simple flavors never interested you.

Everything you wanted had to be the best,
complex, like cookies and cream
with chocolate sauce, butter pecan with
whip cream on top, little edible masterpieces
for the world to see, while my scoop of
strawberry made you to scoff.

Still, you didn’t understand
why I asked us to part.

What point did you see? How would you possibly
ever have learned the truth about me,
that I’m predictable, simple, and sweet,
just like a scoop of strawberry ice cream.

“Potential” by Ayesha F. Hamid

Will your little hands, comparable to the
tapping hands of Handel, be remembered?

Will your young mind, comparable
in acumen to Curie, flourish?

How much violence deflects and how much
is imbibed by your little, grandiose mind?

Remember that perfect railroad track, your trains
turning the corners of that miniature city?

We both smiled playing but  your creation
brought out something unexpected
when we saw a display of his volatile spite.

Your father  kicked the railroad, destroying your trains,
your perfect dream came to an end as your smile
moved to confused sobbing, dear, sweet child.

Remember though that imagination
like elemental energy, cannot be destroyed
and no matter the destruction
we will wait for the emergence of your genius
as distinct as Da Vinci’s.

One day, you will flower again
with sweet stems outstretched,
absorbing all light, shutting out
any darkness that comes your way.

“A Night in California” by Ayesha F. Hamid

The streets are wide, everything is green,
floating in the air, a pervading sense of peace.

I stand in your villa, an open expanse
everywhere the eye can see.

I stroll through open avenues,
I stroll with you, the owner of all this beauty.

Leaving the parameters, we walk down the street
the breeze is just right as flowers fall delicately
pink and white among the lush green.

As we turn the corner, a store surfaces
with everything we need
while neighbors smile warm smiles
chatting with us in Spanish.

We head back, enter through the gates,
returning to finish with preparations
as guests wait.

You’ve worked this day like every other,
so strong, so brave, even on your wedding day.

I guide you to the veranda where we sit for a second
remembering everything that brought you to this moment.
Then, your façade fades as you admit that
life can be difficult, but I hold out my hand 
help you up and send you on your way.

The sun goes down as I join the crowd.
The cool breeze touches my face 
as I wait for you to take the stage.

“Atonement” by Ayesha F. Hamid

I searched her face for it
atonement
in her eyes that had seen
a spectrum of scenes over years
her brow which she could have bent
signaling absolution, but she didn’t.

The last thing she gave was a reluctant smile
so I thought maybe she’s coming round
but before I could sit
listen as she told me again to toughen up
to always hold my head up high
in this world of vultures, redemption, sin
before I could talk to her of mistakes
and regret, her soul fled.

She died at night, a woman
who could command the attention
of any room, at the end laying cowered,
alone on the ground, taking with her
any possibility of peace between us.