Tiel Aisha Ansari is a Sufi, martial artist, and data analyst living in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bruised Peach, Islamica Magazine, Windfall, Verseweavers, The Lyric, Barefoot Muse, and the VoiceCatcher anthology from Portland Women Writers. Her poetry has been featured on KBOO, Prairie Home Companion and MiPoRadio and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her collection Knocking from Inside is available from Ecstatic Exchange. You can visit her online at https://www.knockingfrominside.blogspot.com and https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TielAishaAnsari


At the Japanese Peace Garden in Waterfront Park

the boulders stand brown and angular
like neglected teeth. Chiseled kanji
spell out the haiku of exile
across their weathered faces.
Here, a glimpse out a train window
of a home rolling backward out of sight;
there, the names of camps,
desert stretching away
beyond barbed wire.

Today cherry petals were falling,
stroking the surfaces of stone.
Today a young couple was being photographed
in a bridal dress and a natty suit.
Holding each other under the flowering trees
and drinking from opposite sides of a fountain
like their parents, sipping from opposite ends of an ocean.

I thought the rocks had turned to a row of old women
wiping drops of Oregon rain
from their stone faces.
I wanted to line up a row of pebbles at their feet
and say “Here, Grandmothers,
here are your grandchildren.”



The old women who came over from China
owned narrow-skirted dresses with round high collars
that buttoned above the left breast. Dresses made from:
grey silk embroidered with flying cranes
scarlet heavily brocaded with bamboo
pink satin heaped with plum blossoms like summer snow.
Delicate fabrics stretched over stiff shells.

We, the daughters fed on American beef
the round-eyed granddaughters,
could not fit our larger frames into those dresses.
We cut them up, repurposed the cloth
as vests or fancy cushions. 

I had never seen my grandmother wear those clothes.
She chose wash-n-wear, slacks and pantsuits, occasionally a skirt
saying “It’s easier,
I’m too old for fancy clothes.”
I quilt together scraps of cloth and stories:

this is the dress in which my grandfather first saw her
and forgot all about the political meeting he was supposed to attend
this is the one she was wearing when the Japanese bombs began to fall
and she protected my infant mother with only her own body
in this one she took ship for a new land that would fill her children’s mouths
with a foreign tongue. I rip a seam.
I stitch another square.