Poem because I have my mother's heels

by Maryam Afaq

Jannah (Paradise) is under a mother's feet

—Saying of the Prophet Muhammad

And I wonder

what have I done

to deserve my mother's heels

besides not moisturize my feet


I did not push five babies out of my body

raise them to adulthood

I never stood in kitchens

in Islamabad

or Peshawar or Kuala Lumpur

or even in Sunnyvale

night after night

peeling and frying onions

simmering garlic and ginger

I never changed nappies or attended

parent teacher meetings picked and

dropped off kids to school and friends

houses never gone to bed tired with each

bone aching from not just a day but years

of the work of mother love

I have not sustained life

the way my mother has

I have done none of these things

but I have memorized my mother's heels

from nights of rubbing her feet

while sitting on her exhausted

upturned body

rubbing arthritis creams that

invade my nostrils

massaging her scrawny feet

her heels dry as sand and cracked deep

like pieces of earth after a quake

I used to think

there is no hope for her heels

they will never be supple princess feet ever

no amount of Vaseline-in-socks-through-the-night

no remedies

could restore my mother's cracked heels

now at 24

I see I already have them.

perhaps it is enough

that I am my mother's daughter

and we trail behind one another continent after continent

city after city

how can we help it

if dust gets between the cracks of our heels

and decides to make its home