– Bushra Rehman –

white picket fence no, try chain link
my father so afraid of the world
he erected it, Pakistani style-ghetto style
12 foot high fence, metal, jail, around our house,
five juicy daughters to protect, one son, one wife
always pregnant, and him always at work, 

him and his best friend tore up the shrubbery
all around, if the white neighbors
hadn’t already fled, they would have
said, there goes the neighborhood,

increasing fear, there must have been a series
of rapes and burglaries, the greenery
couldn’t hold it out, so they pulled
the bushes loose from the roots, then
laid it down, 250 feet of chain link,
to make our house look like the cage
it was,

what did my father think, when it was all done
did he stand back from his handiwork and
drink a cup of water, did he stand back and think
no one will hurt them now, 

he may have just sat down, exhausted from the effort,
his small frame not meant for such heavy labor,

but he could not protect us, could never protect us
because he still always let them in,
the men from the masjid who did not have homes,
the men from the masjid who had just come
from Pakistan and needed a place to sleep
until they got back on their feet, the men from the masjid

my father could not protect us, could never protect us
he had forgotten about the snakes in the house