after Seamus Heaney’s Clearances, Sonnet 3
The poem is being published as part of the digital guest curation by Shahbano and Alia Bilgrami. This richly evocative poem is written in the Golden Shovel form, meaning that the last word of each line is lifted from a line from another well-known poem, to which the poet is paying homage. In this case, it is Sonnet 3 of Seamus Heaney’s Clearances, a meditation on his relationship with his mother after her death: ‘I remembered her head bent towards my head, her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives, never closer the whole rest of our lives.’
You at the kitchen sink, sleeves pushed up, I
watched you sift through a fern’s soil, remembered
the simple gesture: lifting a baby snail out of the sluggy mud, her
shelled geometry still unmarred in your palm. How you mothered it, your head
now sunstruck as we went outside and you kissed a tree’s trunk, then bent
its bough to press against your cheek, leaning towards
its hatching buds, saying come here. See this. I followed, my
neck studded with petals, brief confetti of rain. The tree’s head
so high, shedding and shooting past my bedroom window, her
silence whale-like, oceanic. A nest of sparrow’s eggs. Our breath
in summer, chiming in the heat. Amniotic light in
the afternoon’s lap, let me lay my head here. Your face, mine,
streaked with the same memoried brush, our
gestures: mirrorwork. Echoed footsteps, legible and fluent
in the careful grammar of each other’s days, dipping
into this patchwork like needles, like two knives,
or two fish, cutting through glinted water, through light, never
the same but always close enough, closer
than even this: yes, the
mottled eggs clicking open, the whole
garden, the leggy trees, the crumbling forest
of our time, of
the kitchen sink and our
ancient, cursory lives.
A note on the artwork: Najia Omer’s first few years in a new country were about understanding and coming to terms with her role as an immigrant. Now, nine years after living in the United States, she feels accepted, rather than simply tolerated. This change has allowed her to explore her own cultural heritage and to bring that understanding to her art. Her work pays homage to her ancestors, particularly to the women in her family who came before her. Dear Diary Pg. 38 – Star Gazer, Dream Watcher was created with this newfound acceptance and understanding.
Fatima Jafar is a writer from Karachi, currently living in New York. She is completing her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. Her writing can be found in The Drift, Nimrod, The Pinch and more.
Najia Omer is an artist-mother who was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan. She received her BFA from the Indus Valley College for Arts and Architecture in Pakistan. In 2014, Omer, along with her husband and young child, immigrated to Seattle, Washington. Eight years later, the now expanded family moved once again, this time across the US to Katy, Texas, where she and her husband raise their family, and she continues her art practice. In her mixed media paintings, Najia explores the enigma of home, the complexities of being an immigrant, and the relationships that are formed through shared experiences.