This poem was inspired by a story my dad once told me about his young adulthood in Pakistan. It is part of a verse novel that examines—among other concerns—the proliferation and impact of gun violence in America.
Before Papa was my father, he was
a boy on a motorcycle, occupied
by his mother’s declining
health, his latest Quran lesson,
his family and their diminishing
savings— all the mundane
worries that occupy boys
in third-world alley-ways—
when a thief reached into his
back pocket, dug out his wallet,
and ran like a Multani wind.
So mad, I jumped off my bike
and chased him down, he tells me, I couldn’t
believe it. Stealing my wallet? Stealing
from me? The thief threw the wallet
back, yelled that he was sorry,
called Papa crazy. But Papa kept
running, his cricket injuries forgotten,
his disbelief the fuel powering
his out-of-practice feet in close chase
until the man jumped aboard
a train, and the wind roared
in Papa’s ears. Stupid, he calls
his younger self now, shaking his head.
So stupid. What if he’d had a knife?
What if he’d had a gun?
But he adds, it wasn’t America,
and he smiles every time
he tells this story.
Hiba Tahir is a YA author and graduate of the University of Arkansas MFA, where she received the Carolyn Walton Cole Endowment Fund, the J. Chester and Freda S. Johnson Graduate Fellowship, and the James T. Whitehead Award. She is a 2020 recipient of an Artists 360 Grant from Mid-America Arts Alliance and a 2021 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council.