The Poets Of Mccormick Hall 

In September of 2019, a group of MIT undergraduate women hanging out inwards a McCormick dorm room discovered that they all loved writing poesy merely rarely plant the fourth dimension. They decided to option a prompt too, a calendar week or ii later, run into to percentage a new or previously written verse form that match the topic—too take their next prompt.

Later that fall, the friends attended a utter by a Harvard celluloid professor who said that he focused on telling ane someone’second storey to keep his writing authentic. And that cemented their commitment to viewing each verse form equally an chance to say one level that was truthful to themselves together with their experiences—equally immigrants or children of immigrants, every bit Muslim Americans, as women inwards STEM, equally MIT students, as unique individuals. They called it the “One calendar week, one verse form, i story to tell” challenge.

Despite their heavy course loads together with hectic schedules, the women met five or half dozen times on campus, sharing smiles too tears along with their poesy. “Everything was but rattling contagious,” recalls Afeefah Khazi-Syed ’21, a Texas native who majored in biological technology. “Everybody felt everything.”

Then the pandemic hit, and the poets scattered across time zones from California to People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Craving social connectedness, they’d get together every Fri on Zoom, catching glimpses of each other’s pets together with families equally they shared their lives through poetry. “Everyone had moments where they were going through something,” says Khazi-Syed. Online, they processed them together.

Though an outsider mightiness label all of them the same manner, the women were struck past the variety of their experiences. To showcase that, half-dozen of them collaborated on a verse collection, Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air, published past Beltway Editions.

“For me, working on this project as well as existence office of the group was realizing that my experiences mattered and that they were worthy of the spotlight,” says Khazi-Syed. “This was the commencement time I felt like I could live my own master grapheme.” —Alice Dragoon 

Prayers You Whispered

Maisha thousand. Prome You wore those saris until they softened similar butter Steamed inward tarkari spices, simmered inwards summer Dusted by unloosen Earth when the courtyard was swept Hand-scrubbed together with occupation-dried before the monsoon clouds wept And when wintertime came, y’all sewed them together Stitch by run up alongside your nonetheless agile fingers Those yards of good-worn cotton wool with their faded motifs Into this blanket I agree tight about me every bit I sleep,Wrapped inward your love together with the prayers you lot whispered,Thousands of miles away.

*Tarkari is some other give-and-take for curry, unremarkably i containing vegetables. It is a mutual role of South Asian cuisine.

Dear Kashmir

Afeefah Khazi-Syed

you in addition to 1, nosotros are non that dissimilar the color of our peel traverses across
the same pigment palette at Home Depot
october heaven to night camel as well as every shade that falls in betwixt

yous wake upwardly to the warmth of sunshine
1 wake upwardly to the warmth of sunshine
simply yours fights through the Kunlun Mountains and mine through the Boston Skyline

nosotros both know the odour of the air but before it’sec nearly to snowfall merely y’all know other smells besides of sweaty crowds chanting inwards the streets of individual shells dissolving into thin air of flesh losing osing its meaning beyond this nationless country inward the moments before 1 go to sleep at dark the breeze of my ceiling fan reminds me of my andhra grandmother together with the coolness of her morn terrace somewhere inward the eye of the nighttime it hits me that ane accept such fond memories of a place that takes away yours

it leaves me with nightmares of patterns of electric fences striped borders and so held upwards on the You too I that they forget azadi is what keeps Us live i am suspended inwards the paradox of my homeland the Sun sends to yous its warmth from 92.96 million miles away nosotros have forgotten how to make the same
from a stone’sec throw away

* In Fall 2019, but weeks later the Kashmiri lockdown went into upshot, Afeefah attended a utter by Kashmiri filmmaker Musa Syeed. This poem was written before long afterward every bit an ode to the people of Kashmir. The narrative, identity, as well as rich civilization of the Kashmiri people are often shadowed by the ongoing conflict betwixt Bharat, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, together with mainland China. Syeed’second film Valley of Saints is a beautiful reclamation of the Kashmiri story.


Marwa Abdulhai

my linguistic communication
does it not sound strange coming from my mouth? people say that i am arab simply the streets of rain scent of freshly made idli glow of the sea period through my individual there are many languages spoken amongst neighbors tamil, kannada, telugu, urdu v times of salah are heard we are made of many colours

only how would yous know?
when people would like to brand this state
just for the hindus Allah created us of unlike nations as well as tribes so that nosotros may know one another tin somebody order me
where the peace of our land has gone?

*This verse form was originally written inward Urdu (run into below) in addition to translated into English language. It references the next poetry as translated by Yusuf Ali: “O mankind! We created you lot from a unmarried (pair) of a male too a female person, in addition to made yous into nations and tribes, that you lot may know each other…” inwards the Qur’an (49:xiii).



Mariam Dogar

Lately I’ve been starting to experience my somebody instead of my trunk
Like that twenty-four hours on the beach alongside the rocks together with the sunset
Footsteps and then faint I could nearly levitate
With the horizon speaking into my ear: “Be content”

Or when I sat at the dinner tabular array inward the centre of the forest
A citrus spread and the odour of durian between us When he leaned forward in addition to whispered That he could experience his ancestors inward the air Or when I buy the farm a tiger lily and experience a touch my arm
Tracing the outline of the concluding day she could stand up upright When we walked inwards the garden in addition to I painted her toes A brilliant orange that decorated her feet on her deathbed Or when my knees knock against a stranger’s And I call up us inward the dorsum of a sedan amongst a broken AC
Sharing secrets for hours in the delirious glow of the desert Giving me inconvertible proof that you did exist See I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not quite literal
I am memories transcribed without my knowledge Like the passive rise together with fall of my breast Or the tears that slip from my eyes when I express joy In this brilliant orchestra I collect these moments
Undeniably alive together with imperfect too sentient I am congruent with the hearts I’ve met earlier And those He bids me to run across once more

Welcome Home

Maisha one thousand. Prome

August. 36 hours of flight, and I’ve lastly landed inward Boston.
The TSA agent finishes checking my bags as well as hands them
dorsum. Just as I am nigh to footstep into the concluding stretch of
hallway betwixt me in addition to freedom, his vocalization stops me.
I turn. “Yes?”
He nods.
“Welcome dwelling.”

Welcome dwelling.

I take never heard that earlier.
Not fifty-fifty when I state inward my jonmobhumi,the home I was born Where the immigration officers glance at my passport
too wave me through the gate Where the dusty Dhaka air whispers hello and the humidity wraps me inwards a hug The smiles on my parents’ faces when they force upwards inwards the machine The sweet of the mango milk my mother hands me to concluding the effort dwelling My siblings’ bubbling voices when I stride through the door
All these things whisper, affirm, assure
The words I’ve never needed to take heed aloud.

Welcome dwelling house.

Words I’ve never heard one time in my life
For the countless times I’ve stepped out of planes into Boston Logan or JFK Where the dry air of the air-conditioning hums to
the shell of my eye As the blue-uniformed officer frowns at my passport
Trying to tally it to my hijab-framed face
In his eyes I run across the common cold steel silent distrust While I endeavor to hide the agony inward mine

“You’ve been selected for a random security bank check.”
Of course.
“Walk through the scanner again.”
Ice inwards their voices. Alarms, handcuffs, gunshots merely a button press away.
“Did yous pack these bags yourself?”
They comb through my things. The clock is still, merely I hear the moment hand tick away.
They never notice anything of consequence, nevertheless the guilt is ever mine to bear, zipped away into the spaces between my carefully folded wearing apparel.
Breath held, I rush through the last checkpoints
And exhale solely when I’one thousand out the door en road to the condom of my college dorm

But today,
I am stopped by 2 words.

“Welcome dwelling.”

For a minute I am lost Stilled past the crash of a wave that breaks into small ripples on sand
Stuttering I thank him, inwards my head I am dazed And a few minutes afterward, equally the machine races over the highway,I am surprised to observe a tear operate down my confront.

Welcome home.

This should non hateful anything.Home is dwelling house whether yous’re welcomed or non,As US has ever been for me It shouldn’t brand a difference, as well as still it does.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent years always on guard Holding on my natural language the comebacks to the“Go dorsum to your country” they will call at me Like they’ve shouted at my parents And how I’ve spent years on long haul flights, lying awake allxv hours thinking
About everything that could/might/volition get incorrect When Uyghurs disappear too Guantanamo Bay pricks the dorsum of my eyelids betwixt wisps of clouds Rohingyas fleeing houses burned to the ground and smoke is however awash over Palestinian blood.

It is never the turbulence that agitates my breadbasket

Welcome dwelling

I take exclusively known a globe where I am non welcome

So when I listen this From a blue-eyed blonde-haired TSA officer I find myself at a loss Sometimes Acknowledgement can hitting like a ton of bricks Two thoughtful words can sink inward And replay themselves Every fourth dimension I meet the Boston skyline reflected inwards the Charles River on the auto ride dorsum from the drome.

* Jonmobhumi (Bengali) means state of nascence

Dear My Favorite Memories

Ayse Guvenilir

Jumping onto the car roof because you lot are not walking dwelling house inward the cold from this eatery where 1 exclusively had goldfish too for some argue it’sec a job that 1 (supposedly) never complete my food in fact it’s funny besides yous enjoin 1 tending about your twenty-four hour period in addition to one do as well as 1’m touched that it touches you lot come across me from across the room and y’all scoot your mode over and 1 haven’t a clue nearly this lab study merely nosotros pose our sweaters on backwards and then at least nosotros’re warming up this room alongside book clubs in addition to 320 struggles that you lot got me through the night when 1 merely wanted this presentation prep to terminate I’K SINGING downward the hallways where yous find me, e’er.

The warmth yous feel radiating from me really comes from all of you lot don’t yous come across formulation together with catalyzation that dark across the Charles you talked well-nigh edifice patch flight i didn’t know yous appreciated the outset time we met i idea you idea ane was annoying essays written patch making arepas you lot kept me companionship.

Reminiscing memories make mean so much to me i don’t know how to process so yous position on headphones over your earbuds every bit you lot backed out the room one’thousand laughing at the singular mango political party of 4 isn’t it obvious that 1 also am Muslim similar y’all come across me every bit a mentor one’m simply lucky getting to

all of yous.

* 320 is curt for twenty.320 Analysis of Biomolecular as well as Cellular Systems, a form required to consummate the biological applied science undergraduate degree at MIT. The verse form is a tribute to each someone who recounted a retentiveness to Ayse during a surprise Zoom telephone call on her birthday.

Sixth Grade

Afeefah Khazi-Syed

1 started 6th form hijabi

chipmunk cheeks
framed amongst a white chiffon
inspiring all kinds of creative ask aways
no, i do not accept a shower inwards this
no, the bun inward the dorsum is non an alien antenna
yes, 1 do accept pilus,
inwards fact a whole head of thick, nighttime hair

Sirens blare inward the well-nigh distance every bit the air fills amongst fume. ane answered all kinds of questions inward sixth class where did i detect this unwavering belief in addition to confidence in my deen?

where did one notice the stamina to be okay with singularly defending an entire faith inward 6th class?

as well as why did it all come up much more easily back inwards sixth class?

Children’s playground burns to the earth at the local masjid. one detect the incriminating looks
more immediately taken left to right upwards in addition to downwards observe myself fatigued from the elongated routine of flying home
experience the stickiness of my looks when 1 encompass a novel space you lot are Off beat outA prosecution of postal service-nine/eleven attack against Muslim Americans begins.

at that place are days when it feels like my imaan is hanging on past a unmarried thread
and at that place are days when the connection to God is felt and then deeply into my bones
that tears fall downwardly to the earth in sajdah A twelvemonth passes before the homo is sentenced for a hate crime.

1 take even more function to do than
a work in progress as well as so again too once again 1 notice myself folding my palms
inward the exact same manner mygrandmother taught me to praying for the belief together with confidence too force i found inward sixth form

* In 2011, the playground of Afeefah’sec local masjid—a home she too her family ofttimes visited—was burned to the earth in an human action of arson. This is the beginning hate criminal offense Afeefah consciously remembers experiencing. While her conclusion to wearable hijab had cipher to do with this incident, Afeefah often looks dorsum at the parallel narratives of her centre school years—a time in which she turned to hijab as an embracement of everything that she was. However, this was besides a fourth dimension in which Afeefah began to realize that not everyone in her community was accepting of who she was.


Marwa Abdulhai

how much is plenty
for me to believe?
just alongside my eyes that tin run into
the clouds moving inward tandem with the trees or tiny creatures surviving the coldest of seasons. it’second inwards the stars forming too colliding as well as collapsing Insan* created amongst linguistic communication as well as volition and feeling a perfect design for life alongside probability of in y’all tell everything serves a purpose even the grains of sand placed along the body of water do they also feel Your presence? stronger too closer to You than me?

i wonder at those previous with patient fears together with organized religion then resolute
could they enjoin me the secrets to the righteous path we all try?

* Insan (Standard Arabic) translates to mankind


Maisha chiliad. Prome

Rain drums, thrums on the rooftop
To a beat that overtakes the ane that keeps me alive And so slow sings me to sleep at my desk Tomorrow peradventure, I’ll lastly get upwardly from this desk Still tin’t get outside but nosotros tin can go to the rooftop To expect at the sky too retrieve that it’second practiced to be live All those years when the urban center was live
And yet we sat all the same together with studied, glued to the desk Only the rain knows reason as it rinses the rooftop

* The final words of each business inward the beginning stanza (“rooftop,” “live,” too “desk”) are taken too repeated inwards a different social club inwards the remaining two stanzas. This is an instance of a Tritina verse form, a shorter version of the Sestina which contains half dozen stanzas.

“Aleena” isn’t what I become by

Aleena Shabbir

It’second “jaanu”
when you enquire most my solar day as well as wish me goodnight It’s “pyaari”
when you lot kindly asking my assist or want to speak Or “pagal”
when you laugh at all my antics and jokes

Sometimes “chalaak”
when I do something that slips your middle

“Meri zindagi”
when we encourage as well as uplift each other

“Mera dil”
when you lot’re comforting me through pain

It’s “behta”
when y’all denote breakfast

when I sass you lot

And endless more

Forgive me When I suspension


I haven’t heard that real often

* All these words are inward Urdu. Jaanu way sweetheart. Pyaari agency pretty or cutie. Chalaak agency smart in a clever, slightly cunning way. Meri zindagi agency my life. Mera dil means my heart. Pagal means light-headed, nonsensical. Behta is an affectionate term for a child. Larki means daughter.


Maisha chiliad. Prome

I was taught this linguistic communication past my begetter who tended these fields equally did his parents before him, taught that this backbreaking labor twenty-four hour period subsequently mean solar day is what feeds a newly born state through state of war together with genocide (that Islamic Republic of Pakistan wrought). Perfect long white grains autumn into a bowl, glistening multitudes like the multiplication tables my mother made me memorize at six Just like my parents did equally did their parents before them. Because amongst the grain that gave my ancestors sustenance through the famine (that the British caused), came the necessitate for careful calculations of impartial portions in addition to then embedded within the genes they passed downwards to me is a binding obligation that I never neglect a math test. Rice, painstakingly multiplied in addition to cautiously divided,
is what has kept us live.

* The poem references the Bangladesh Liberation War in addition to the atrocities of the 1971 People’s Republic of Bangladesh genocide committed past the Pakistani military. Many elders inwards Maisha’sec family unit fought inwards the state of war together with her parents grew upward in a land rebuilding itself subsequently independence. Decades before, the Bengal Famine of 1943 had killed more than than 2 meg people inwards the Bengal region (comprising introduce twenty-four hours People’s Republic of Bangladesh too the Indian province of West Bengal). The famine arose non out of drought, only due to wartime policies imposed by the British colonial dominion upon the part. (Sen, Amartya. Poverty in addition to Famines: An Essay on Entitlement as well as Deprivation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

How Are You Doing?

Afeefah Khazi-Syed

one am finding it hard to sleep at night

betwixt hours of trying to
capture my existence into words
inward hopes that somebody else volition see me as well as the tears that ane take tried crying simply take still to over a life that no longer exists inward my life too the dread of not knowing when this waiting catamenia of mundanity volition cease and the feeling of always needing to live producing something doing something existence something all one want is to live able to walk into a cafe alongside my knapsack backpack inward paw surrounded by friends one tin can stand up feel my feet on state i am lost afraid of unloose waterfalls
oceans that don’t accomplish the shoreline flowing rivers that never see ane am not sure
ane know how 1 am “Great! And you lot?”


Mariam Dogar

In the drawer by my bed
I go on the odour you wore to Eid prayer

An unmarked bottle Not intended for refills Screwed and so tightly I will never function it upwards But twice a twelvemonth, I permit myself drinkable it in The odour of coin together with coins and sweat on henna-stained hands The rush of one-half-instant kisses as well as final-minute zakaat The crackling of knees mixed amongst loudspeaker takbeers And of class, the sight of your smiling
Like the saccharide syrup nosotros poured
On microwaved gulab jamun

But was it heavy or light?
Crystal clear or blurred?
I don’t think I tin can order The departure I tin’t convey myself To consume them that style Anymore All I want Is you lot To always be

I don’t use the perfume you lot wore to Eid prayer
It’second an unmarked Earth I tin can’t refill


I bottle these memories to go on them stiff
So that twice a year, nosotros say Eid Mubarak
In the drawer by my bed


* Central to this verse form are the feelings, imagery, and nostalgia surrounding Eid-al-Fitr – a celebration of the end of Ramadan, the calendar month of fasting. It is i of the ii large holidays in Islam. On Eid, Muslims traditionally apparel inwards fancy or novel wearing apparel, congregate inwards masjids for prayer, wishing each other “Eid Mubarak,” give zakaat (charity), together with consume nutrient and desserts together. The Oud referenced inwards the poem is a fragrance that is warm, sweet, together with woody as well as is used widely inward the Arab world as well as elsewhere. Oud is usually very expensive, together with is sold in minor vials. Mariam’second female parent would relieve it for particular events, such as Eid.


Marwa Abdulhai

you waited to option me upward earlier the bell
bringing leftover snacks from your preschool political party nosotros sat inwards the parking lot ane ate the final doughnut spell you lot listened to my day inwards a linguistic communication y’all did non completely empathize yous earned your outset paycheck at forty the hope of a new journeying inward your eyes request me to impress pages upon pages of colour books for the kids who adored you lot every bit much equally nosotros yous always know where to observe missing things
the hijab tangled inward piles of laundry
keys hidden in clutters of pockets you lot told me to tell inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un when asking Allah to return that which belonged to Him you remembered the twenty-four hour period of every examination
a bottle of zamzam inward your mitt 1 ever wondered how it lasted till the cease of senior year the alarms always start at 3 inwards the morn your heart inward prayer for the dreams of others your motivations have never been for this globe yous are a serenity

ane experience the ےتشرف about y’all, ammi

* ےتشرف (Urdu) translates to angels.
inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un: transliteration of poesy ii:156 of the Qur’an, translating to “to Allah we belong in addition to to Him we shall return”. This is said when you misplace something and would like to find it (every bit in the poem), besides equally more than oft, when someone passes away.

The Ending Does Not Exist

Afeefah Khazi-Syed

when i was vii years one-time my mother would take me to the nearby library where i would selection out vii novel books for the 7 days ahead of me 1 accept emptied and filled bookshelves young adult novels, physics textbooks, haitian ethnographies, as well as everything in between ane never came across the perfect final chapter left to search for solace
inward midnight dreams one outcry when i go out a home too i’1000 non real skilful at goodbyes because when the core of existence
meets its fate the sun rarely rises amongst a outcry volition this be my concluding fourth dimension ane accept lost besides many
to imperfect farewells too many a nights
it makes my caput experience close to sort of fuzzy one attempt to remind myself we were not built for endings nosotros were built to draw each other upwards as well as pave our paths to reunions of the afterlife

when one intend sunshine

Ayse Guvenilir

flying barefoot, barely beingness able to catch a breath from all this chasing, laughing, the nights seeming to terminal forever until they ended and it was a new 24-hour interval as well as nosotros were fasting. Sun blazing, we went exterior anyways, playing until we could consume too it would be never-ending night in one case over again. peradventure this time, at that place were no human being hunts, merely ever roughly separate of game, sure as shooting a feeling of having to pee constant until it was over too back dwelling house, my feet were washed of the grass stains left behind and to cool the blazing of the sun. a new twenty-four hours and so heavy, it felt like we were the ocean, swimming nosotros were instead of running as well as 1 never did get to leap into the puddle alongside my shoes on. it was one time, only the rain was burned into the memory of my 3-layered peel. every twenty-four hour period, something new or old—riding bikes, dodging balls, shooting hoops, exploring forests. running like fourth dimension did non be. summer was on burn, fifty-fifty if it was raining, as well as we were invincible until we were no longer nor was it summertime— together with Real Life starts upwards dreams of never-ending dark when 1 intend sunshine.

* This poem was written inward the haibun course, a combination of a prose verse form as well as a haiku.

Live Thoughts As Im Skydiving

Aleena Shabbir

I beloved the adrenaline The thrill of take chances coursing inside Scared out of my heed I’thousand all over the place Impulsive decisions are my strongest vice Up until I’k really out of my comfort zone

Arms flailing, deeply sinking The air current whipping inward my confront The lakes beneath me Blue and then beautifully different from the sky’second I never imagined I’d find it and so ugly from hither

“I detest this” while “I’m having the fourth dimension of my life”
“Talk nigh a panorama” just “Did I merely swallow a wing?!?”

Time seems more than meaningful upward hither I experience similar I’thousand looking at a board game Everything a 10th of its size We get closer, the distance between us smaller,
simply my fear, more real
What looked so tiny, straightaway giant, daunting I force my legs out, cook to come up dorsum and it’s The “ass landing” that grounds me once more And I’thousand thankful to the sky I meet things differently straightaway

A Thousand Places

Maisha thousand. Prome

Yellow globe betwixt my toes,
chasing chickens through the thou.

The sideslip on mosaic tile earlier
the crash together with the permanent scar.

A strip of plane rug miles to a higher place the gleaming ocean. Gritty grey of the schoolyard
scraping raw against my articulatio genus. Polished floor of marbled tile similar water ice in the winter chill. Dorm room carpeting brownish together with warm amongst a history undistilled.

Treading through pearlescent snowfall
in addition to through monsoon-flooded streets I’ve walked a thou places
together with institute home beneath my feet.

The Landing

Aleena Shabbir

Each fourth dimension the plane descends
I tin experience the air elevator my female parent’sec confront And widen my male parent’sec smiling Peace shining inward their eyes Free rides in Joyland instead of Playland
Fried Chicks, non KFC Filling both center together with stomach With calories that concluding a lifetime The aerodrome, crowded
The crowd, livelybThe yelling of different travelers All coming dwelling My mamu e’er at that place to option us upwardly Holding common cold, fresh Shezans A sweetness that tin only be tasted Back in Pakistan

* Shezan is 1 of the best distributors inwards Islamic Republic of Pakistan for mango juice. Not completely biased in Aleena’sec sentiment or anything. Absolutely not at all.


Afeefah Khazi-Syed

every time 1 settle at your feet
with a bowl of coconut fossil oil in manus
swirled as well as warmed for precisely 15 seconds in the microwave 1 experience generations the hands of each too every ane of them must accept besides moved like yours working through knots of carelessness too exhaustion the wrinkles on your fingers must have been passed downwardly through hidden battles one volition never know of and this massage routine must have grown inwards perfection through centuries of Ammis and Nanis as well as Dadis when yous neatly flexure my pilus into your signature braid something tells me these words accept been said before

when volition yous start taking attention of yourself?”
1 respond past asking you the same.

* This verse form is named later Parachute pilus oil—a staple to the many tel massages Afeefah grew upwards amongst.

These poems from Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air, published inwards 2022 by Beltway Editions, are reproduced hither with permission from the publisher in addition to the authors. The poets—who are directly all graduate students at universities across the the States—even so effort to run across monthly online to part their stories.