GIC hosted a poetry competition open to youth across Atlanta encouraging thoughtful reflection on this year's theme: What does Ramadan mean to you?
Congratulations to Syed Abbas Shah (age 16) on winning the Poetry Competition!
“What’s in a name? That which we call
a rose by any other name would smell
as sweet.” William Shakespeare, 1597.
Such mundanity convoluted with the
weathering of time has left us with a
tired comprehension of this
expression’s true essence,
The populist, one that fights for the
right of the people, will travel far
lengths to defend this proposition and rally
at the echo of equality yet when
faced with the reality, dismisses it as
an act of the whole and blames
the self-imposed impuissance on the basis
of his name.
A name, snatched from the hands of the masses.
His baba killed in the pursuit of defense,
and his mama, for the security.
He is the wilting rose in the patch of poppies:
sweet, isolated, combating man’s lust for greed.
His ears ringing, not from freedom, but
the flashes of red, white, and blue he
witnesses crashing into the homes of
his people, our people.
His face echoes the lost innocence,
shattered memories, and a longing to
belong yet when flashed on the black
mirrors in front of our eyes, we plaster
the façade with predispositions that
He holds his arms out for the showers
of foretold prosperity yet he is shoved
into an AK.
He is the Lady Lazarus, and we, the spectators.
He pulls out a pen and paper as his
stomach echoes with the pangs of his
thoughts and writes his name.
philanthropist, doctor, astronaut;
He hands it to the stern pale man in the top
hat and blinding goatee. The page
pushes back on him, where his life’s
worth could be quantified with no
zeroes or a comma,
he reads, “We don’t want you here,
go back to your country… Osama.”
A manifestation of struggle and pain,
he was stolen of the only thing he had
left, his name.
Acceptance is the Gospel of our nation
engraved into the foundations of our lady
we refer to as liberty, yet the cane
of fear transcends the able to prosper.
Privilege and poverty, ignorance and law;
this is the fundamental flaw.
For every atom of red on the flag we
hold so high, the same spills across the
faces of the innocent, the names of the
the only difference between an Aleppo
and an Atlanta is time.
So raise your voice, shout your names
from the valleys of Kurdistan to the
banks of the Gaza Strip.
Pour out your heart and paint the fields
of war with the red of passion.
Shout with the enthusiasm of Malcolm
because no, you are not little.
Break free from the chains of the
oppressors and soar through the
channels of opportunity.
Yes, Uncle Sam.
I am the pebble in the over worn shoe
a dream deferred,
a scar on the supple cheek of injustice,
the free breath of the huddled masses,
I am the radical, the tornado you fear,
the poisonous skittle in the bowl of sweet,
the threat to your American values,
the forbidden fruit, ripe with
knowledge, waiting to be eaten in your
Garden of Eden.
I am a revolutionary, an innovator.
For far too long have I been the
It is time for in this holy month we lift
our hands in rejoice, not riot. Wake up,
for we are clouded in an American Dream,
It is our time to be the ones that paint
our names in the stars,
for we are the rosebuds waiting to blossom.
We are the untitled.
Describe the thought process behind your poem.
Growing up in the “Information Age”, a nomenclature quite Orwellian in its blandest sense, I was constantly sheltered from the reality of my fellow sisters and brothers around the globe that faced immense hardship. I had to take a step back, and reflect on the microcosm many of us take for granted living in middle-class American suburbia and place myself in the shoes of not “one of them,” but a probable alternate actuality that I could very well have accepted as my own throughout the war-torn Middle East, namely Afghanistan.
How does your poem connect to the theme of Ramadan?
My ideal was to paint the current socio political landscape through the eyes of the bright, innocent children of these nations that the Western world deems a “threat” and the holy month of Ramadan serves as a translation of this very struggle into the lives of the fortunate. It brings a duty upon us to realize this oppression through a miniscule sacrifice by means of the sawm and rise against the hindrances of our people, not only Muslims, but mankind.
Explicate any symbolism or metaphors in your poem.
Starting off with the symbolism expressed through this literary piece, I deliberately included the quotation uttered by Shakespeare to tie into the latter shift in tone when “the man in the top hat,” an obvious nod to the American Government, and their generalization of all Muslims as “Osama” which connotes violent fundamentalist ideas rather than ones of curiosity and innovation. Earlier in the piece, I refer to him as the “Lady Lazarus” which is a poem that refers to suicide and we, as in the American people, watch the youth of countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Palestine suppress their dreams and commit a “suicide of hope” through their circumstances and our failure to help or even acknowledge this atrocity makes us the “spectators”. The use of “Lady Lazarus” further alludes to the poet Emma Lazarus who penned “New Colossus” which is the poem engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty which is expanded on later in this piece with “the free breath of the huddled masses” as is a restatement of the famous line within the aforementioned piece which represents refugees from foreign nations. I included Quranic/Biblical references within the text to bring up the hypocrisy of the “perceived morality” of the American people through lines such as “Acceptance is the Gospel of our nation… yet the cane of fear transcends the able to prosper,” which goes back to the story of Cain and Abel, within Surah Al-Ma’ida, which represents the oppression of the righteous and innocent for a perceived personal gain such as the perception of “safety” through the killing of innocent civilians across the Middle East. Another is used when referring, albeit satirically, to the “Muslim” as the “forbidden fruit ripe with knowledge.”
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