Literary Magazine

Hawwa Loves Padma | Zoha Khan

i.  This is a poem about how she is all

the religion I need and I watch her twist and turn, agony one minute, joy the next.

Her magic-hands are calling me forward then sending me away,

the same hands that undid my hair and my blouse, then in

worship, now in blasphemy, now

chasing each other like birds, a flock

of mynahs fluttering about her dark, braided hair,

now leaping like flames, now flowing down her frame like water.


ii. This is about how she’s the poem within this poem

and I watch her dance like fire does, swaying her hips like the tongue

of a flame, and I can already imagine it against my mouth;

the pounding of her feet is the fever of a conflagration, lotus-pink

with the ecstasy of dance.

For a heartbeat,

the music manages to grab her by the waist

doll with the cat-eyes and hips that tilt like a planet’s axis, and lures her in,

so she loops around in its vinyl maze but there she goes again,

spinning out of that black rotating cage to freedom, whirling to her own dervish tune.

Such force and then,

a pirouette like a breath, now kiss-broken hitching

then grace.

I watch her dance, finding herself once lost,

leading the wretch that I am home.


iii. This is a poem about how Adam spits paan as I take

her hand in mine and we dance the saat phairay; Adam strokes

his beard when I circle her in worship, my grace,

my laughing Makkah so much prettier than his stone-faced

one, and though he objects, I know He’s glad I’m happy; Adam

sneers and loads his shotgun, but I only pull

her closer.

We are Maryam and we are complete without him.


iv.  This is a poem about all the grief that we thought was past but has been shoved into our presents,

skull-capped j(y)-a-c(q)-o(u)-b-in-the-boxes demanding we yield.

This is a poem about

all the good to come, about all the pagan peace we herald, the

gods we fight to reclaim.

This is a poem about me and her and how

our p e(o) r(l) s(i) o(t) n(i) (c) a l

are all the same to all of you, how our own and our own ask

us to pick a side, like identities are cookie dough

and we can just piece them into lgbtq+ rainbows or

David stars, crescent moons, only.

This is a poem that says we are not our oppressors and

we will not apologize for not being clean-cut political

causes to rally behind.


This is a poem about how Padma’s mangal suttar matches my allah pendant and about how

they tangle when we press together in sleep.

This is a poem for those who can love both their god and their partners,

though everyone tells them they must pick one.

Zoha is busy being all the things Pakistan reckons are impossible or illegal to be. Poetry, jewelry, ice cream and lists help keep her anxiety under control and make her happy. Currently studying for her A-Levels, she’s trying to make sure no kid is as shaped by abuse as she is. She is a contributor at Feminism In India; her work has been published by Thought Catalog and Rising Phoenix Press, and is forthcoming in the Shade Journal.