The Feast

Dilruba Ahmed

My father is hosting the final picnic.
                    He rolls a melon back and forth
on the slate table to steady it

and slice, each piece bleeding
                    onto a white plate. The coals turn
gray but still flicker and burn, with raw

meat slung on top of the grill, oozing
                    blood red to clear. In the river
bordering the grove, a lone man paddles

his arms, stomach pressed
                    to a blue surfboard.
Black and white ripples

radiate from him while boats knock
                    against the pier. The children
gather their Frisbees from grass,

their volleyballs and racquets, appearing
                    and disappearing
in bright shirts like confetti.

Their voices rise and fall. It is late.
                    The sun shines, but not
for much longer. The golden hour

has begun. For a moment
                    the moss-covered trees glow
lime green, frozen in their looming

heights. My father: white shirt,
                    gray pants, silver wristwatch,
glasses. He always cut the melon.

The plates are ready, the food
                    is hot, the watermelon cold
and seedless. And our lives,

for a moment, are an untouched
                    meal: perishable, and delicious,
one we’ve barely begun to taste.

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Dilruba Ahmed is the author of Bring Now the Angels (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020). Her debut book of poetry, Dhaka Dust (Graywolf Press), won the Bakeless Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Ploughshares and Poetry. Her poems have also been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2019 (Scribner), Halal If You Hear Me (Haymarket Books), Literature: The Human Experience (Bedford/St. Martin’s), Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas), and elsewhere. Ahmed is the recipient of The Florida Review’s Editors’ Award, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Prize, and the Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellowship in Poetry awarded by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She holds degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh

“There are books of poetry whose service approaches public ritual of private feeling, Dilruba Ahmed’s Bring Now the Angels is one of those books. It is a prayer to see more clearly one’s grief and one’s relationship to the vibrancy and complexity of parents and children and the natural world. This is a book that asks about neglect and regret in order to understand how we might care for the living and the dead. What a healing collection of poems Ahmed has given us.”
—Patrick Rosal

"Dilruba Ahmed’s address in a poem feels so personal, one might look over one’s shoulder a few times to see if she is watching. The 'you' feels intimate, personal, immediate. Perhaps the late and great Jane Mead would be another voice that felt so warm and close. The 'I' is familiar, the 'he' and 'she' and 'they' feel like the people in my own life. Where others might choose distance in order to address the painful decline of a parent, the difficulties of any life, Ahmed bends closer in, closer to the discomfort, to the wound, to the dying. I feel heard in these poems, seen and known. Ahmed has two of the greatest gifts of any poet—empathy and music, which is to say: song and heart."
—Kazim Ali

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