Memory Beneath the Coptic Roof
The past two years,
I’ve been trying to channel
the spirits my of ancestors.
to hymns of history and litanies of theory.
Searching for rootedness.
But I didn’t find a sense of rootedness
until they reminded me that
roots are more than remembering.
They are also created—
and from forgetting.
Simultaneously recovering and covering
those fragments which enliven me
but acknowledging those pieces which hurt and dis-empower me.
The rootedness I feel now comes from knowing
that even my ancestry is nebulous.
Never beginning. Never ending.
and rooted again.
and named again.
The past is a bird
which comes and goes from
the nest of my mind.
Today it has returned with
images of the wasteland
and mobs of ladybugs
crawling in from
the cracks of the ceiling
foreshadowing a future of haphazard fortune.
The feral cats
who chose to rest
their souls in our decrepit basement.
The scent of their
deaths rising through the furnace
putting a halt to our acts of immortality.
A morsel of Yugoslavian bread, a sip of Bengali milk tea
shared over tales of heartache and exile beneath the refuge of the
Coptic roof of where we used to live.
I give my past a funeral but keep it marked with a tombstone.
I keep it covered but not hidden
so I may visit to them like a holy shrine.
Nazia Islam is a writer and artist from California. A graduate of anthropology and religion, she is a Bengali folk culture enthusiast and focuses her research in the subject area. She enjoys learning about Baul music and connecting with her complicated religious ancestry through folklore she has inherited.