At the Allama Iqbal International Airport by Hera Naguib
By Wasafiri Editor on March 7, 2023 in Poetry
Wasafiri is pleased to publish the pieces shortlisted for the 2022 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. The poems, essays, and short stories in this series showcase the best new writing from the best new writers across the globe – in all their diversity and complexity. In this bilingual poem about the cosmopolitan nature of international airports, Hera Naguib contemplates distance and the decision to leave.
At the Departures gate, you wave away
porters who swarm and offer
to carry your luggage. A small choice,
you know, though in this,
your trivial defiance. Mostly, these are affable,
middle-aged men who don’t hasten you,
but urge for tips in American dollars.
At the ticket counter, they while away the line
of passengers by sometimes turning to ask
unsolicited what it is like
for you, a woman, to live
alone, abroad. They’re curious,
without judgement, and though this
mildly surprises you, and though you know
an international airport is as cosmopolitan
as it gets, that you could reveal here, safely,
how you love each night alley
tinkling its curfew-less hours
& in that faraway country,
that room of one’s own,
bounteous as a fugitive tunnel,
you don’t. Instead, you say kerna parta hae,
one has to, shouldering necessity
or whatever it is that your mother
and her mother always made up
for themselves because what perplexes
here more than a woman
who claims her life as her own?
To this, the porters never say much.
Maybe they, too, have daughters whom
they send off each daybreak into the dank,
panting jaws of a public bus. Maybe they, too,
admit to necessity, but never the way
it may mother invention.
So, when the officer scans your I-20
at Passport Control and nods at you,
laurelling mulk ki beti, nation’s daughter,
you nod to his hollow praise
for which you know you have no feat to claim,
but this exit ticket you clasp in fist
as you climb the narrow Airbus aisle
that will soon lift to breach from land
a gulf wide as your regret and deep as your satiety.
Hera Naguib is a PhD candidate in creative writing at Florida State University. Her manuscript-in-progress ATLAS OF DISQUIET won the Gasher Press 2022 First Book Scholarship. Hera’s work has been published in The New England Review, Poem-a-Day, The Cincinnati Review, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. Currently, she is Editorial Assistant at Guernica. Find her at heranaguib.com
The 2023 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open for submissions until 30 June 2023. Submit here.