The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Literature from Mexico City

Rizwan Rakhshan: 1 Poem Published

Poem by Rizwan Rakhshan (Pakistan/ Germany)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 45





Call me Mischi not Mikaail,

I don’t have a last name; at least not when I introduce myself,

“Mischi”--- Just Mischi--- without the “Assad”,

without my father, the choleric Turk, 

becoming Michael made me easier on the mouths of my white friends,

Mischi does not smell like doener, Mischi is not Mehmet,

I slide onto German tongues,

like a glove---a handschuh---- the slippery vowels of Mikaail,

the purring ‘k’ sound replaced by the deep guttural

‘ch’ sound which resides in German throats,

the purling honeys of Mikaail replaced by the sharp, ejection of Michael;


But the hijab-clad girl at the library,

 in her eyes, I am Mikaail bin Assad;

She calls me Assad in my mother’s voice;

She detects the Turkish tan on my white skin;

She sees the brown of my pupils;

She always greets me with salam alaikum even in front of

Germans—in university corridors--- her velvety salaam,

hangs in the air like a delicate pearl,

to be threaded with a walaikum salam and to quiver,

on a silver string,


My father’s friends object to my choices;

My mother tells them to mind their own business though behind

her deep, brown eyes something stirs,

She cradles my forehead--- Mikaail--- Oh Mikaail, she says,

she chose the name, on her return from the pilgrimage to Makkah,

as I swam in her belly--- she,

wrapped my newborn form in an embroidered

cloth bought from Madina; I learnt about

prophetic love, prophetic sacrifice from her

tongue; she makes me Mikaail,

who turns the leaves of a gilded Quran,

who weeps at its lyrical verses, who rises to offer

the morning prayer; for her, I am only Mikaail--- wholeness—

the antidote to her huzun, her nostalji

to restore all that she lost in her crossing,

but mama, I have to leave you,

your huzun, your oppressive---nostalji---

the weight of it; I have to become half, 

of myself; I have to slice myself and keep,

only a part of me--

Mama, I have had to become Mischi,


But it was Mikaail who carried you in his arms, that night,

You seemed so light and fragile,

like bone-china,

I gave my name as Mikaail that night

to the on-call doctor, 

It was Mikaail who whispered his prayers,

his pleas; your language rising to his lips;

Your language occupying the crevices of his mouth,

Words that had lain dormant

on his tongue, for years--- rose and grew---

------like huzun---like nostalji---

Words that could not save you.


About the Poet

Rakhshan Rizwan was born in Lahore, Pakistan and then moved to Germany where she studied Literature and New Media. She is currently a PhD candidate at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Her poems have appeared in Papercuts, Cerebration, Muse India, The Missing Slate, Postcolonial Text and elsewhere. She is the winner of the Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize.

Image: 'Columbus Ohio (21) Inside the Mosque' by TijsB.