Poem: Mother May I?

By S. NADIA HUSSAIN, for Muslima, Global Fund for Women

I wrote this poem “Mother, May I?” because it was a game I used to play as a child. There is a game called “Mother, May I?” where someone plays the mother whose back is turned to the other players. The “Mother” tells a player to take a few steps, and the player must ask, “Mother, May I?” before taking any steps; if they do not then they must stay in place. It is a bit like the game “Simon Says”. I thought about how this game reflected upon my life as a young woman, and how frustrated I would feel when it seemed like there were so many rules to being a woman, particularly a South Asian Muslim woman. I felt that my male cousins and other Muslim young men I saw could be free and do what they wanted, but I could not. It seemed like the older I became, the more restrictions were put on me. As an adult, I feel that I have fought and questioned these restrictions for most of my life. I hope for a day when our daughters will not have to ask if they are allowed take part in implicit freedoms we should all have, whether we are male or female.

 

 

Mother may I

take a step

to set my path upon the world?

 

Mother may I

wander on my own

like my brothers do?

 

Mother may I

skip, laugh and smile

as long as my laughter is not too loud

nor my smile too wide

 

Mother may I

pursue my dreams

as long as I have not placed them too high?

 

Mother may I

take another step forward

or

backward

 

Mother may I

have the world within my reach

as long as that reach

is not outside the boundaries of my home?

 

Mother may I

grow beautiful

to only tempt the eyes of a husband

and hope that the world is blind to me

 

Mother may I

pick up the pieces of glass

from the floor

when I try to step forward

 

Mother may I

have a man to keep me safe

always?

and always

have something to keep me safe from a man?

 

Mother may I

hide my sins from a world

that only sees my sins?

Mother may I

have babies to love

and children to hold?

 

Mother may I

not suffer…

or is that one too many steps

Am I too quick

to reach my destination?

 

Mother may I

love myself

without being selfish

 

Mother may I

love others

without losing myself

 

Mother may I

never have daughters

who look up to me

and ask

Mother may I?