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Ma After Fajr

M. N. Shehryar

the vines fall capriciously against a wall, green-yellow

stems filling gaps in the concrete to wholeness. my mother

i think is looking for something to care for, her children

having ‘grown too soon’, the violence in her husband’s

voice not allowing slow nurture. my mother in silence

prunes a leaf, waters what i assume are either tomatoes

or coriander, an expert wrist giving just enough that they

might give life themselves. my mother teaches plants how

to fly. my mother spends her afternoons on the terrace,

rearranging mint so it sprouts taller, calling over the

maali to furnish it with cow dung, cracking eggshells

into insides of earthen clay. my mother says this is food

for the soil. the money plants are many, and my mother

spends eons intertwining their systems, making whole a

family (if not hers). my mother has never pulled a plant

from its roots. my mother can name shades of green, can

in partial blindness identify rot from undernourished, will

bury love into mush it refuses to emerge from. the days

go by and my mother’s terrace is now a garden. she has

grown something, a child intact, not a single root (even by

accident) discarded. my mother when she is (often) sick

doesn’t leave her bed. the bougainvillaea call, asking to be

planted, wanting to know why her favourite colour is green

and not pink. my mother sleeps through this and wakes

to a week (maybe) of waking, steps outside and thumbs

through a leaf. obliviously a child of hers sleeps in the next

room, another across an ocean. but here is this: that which

she grew/clenched dirt keeping hostage thriving root/a

vein she can croon, and it will never leave.

Maa by Muhammad Zeeshan (2014); laser scoring and gouache on wasli


M. N. Shehryar is a sometime-poet from Islamabad and a full-time urban studies major (and lit minor) at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. Born in Lahore and raised in Karachi, Shehryar’s work manoeuvres space and time to talk about nostalgia, loss, love and what it means to belong.

About the featured artist: Karachi-based Muhammad Zeeshan received his BFA in miniature painting from the National College of Arts, Lahore. He currently serves as adjunct faculty at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi. With a distinct focus on honing local talent, Zeeshan’s curatorial practices highlight elements of concern, aiming to empower sidelined talent with opportunities and access, the basis on which he was selected as curator for the Karachi Biennale 2019. He has conceptualized several residencies and is also cofounder of the Kaifwala Foundation that has successfully orchestrated the Bunvat Festival for the past three years—focusing on promoting performing arts entrenched in local culture and creating original content that values Urdu at its core. Zeeshan has several gallery, art fair, museum and institutional exhibitions to his credit and his works are also a part of the permanent collection of the British Museum, London, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, Pacific Asia Art Museum, Pasadena, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


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