Alif Baa
Shariq Khan

Like three owlets on a branch
They sit, squished together
On a charpai much bigger
than all of them combined.
Two brothers and a sister,
Trying to read the alif baa
Until I make a funny face—
Giggles blossom into laughter
Now they’re falling over each other
So much joy, coming so easy?
The father’s voice suddenly booms
‘Read! No fooling around!’
The owlets snap back
Into a row
Droning away their alif baas.
Shariq Khan is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago's South Asian Languages and Civilizations Department. He grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and completed his undergraduate studies from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.


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