Shifting Syllables
by Sana Gill

Once a mass of hunger cries and skin folds,
reborn into nobility at three months.
Mother went into labour again—
called out to ancestral souls
for an auspicious identity.
The answer:

Brilliance, praise.

Arabic, Urdu, Hindi wove into its syllables
till the smell of henna and the sound of prayer call
danced between its phonemes.

Short but unrelenting,
it demands to be tasted.
It lingers on the class list,
Kate, Cameron…Sayna?
Stands out on a foreign tongue,
unapologetic but forgiving.
Never know how to tell them:
it is poetry not penalty,
sing it as a rustic lullaby—
let the tongue stroke the incisors,
slow and precise.

Usually masked or dressed,
it’s still naked on my mother’s tongue,
confessing of its origins:
a rumbling forest fire, a consoling hymn.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: This is a picture of me at the age of six, attending my cousin’s wedding in Multan, Paskistan. It is only one of the few childhood photos that have accompanied me to Canada, and I will forever cherish it for its simplicity, a trait highly symbolic of my life in Pakistan as a child.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I believe that a name is not just a label to be associated with a person, but a proud declaration of one’s roots. Through this poem, I hoped to pay homage to my proud identity of being a Pakistani-Canadian, and demonstrate the complexity of preserving the cultural aspects of the name as I reside happily in Canada.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sana Gill lives in Mississaua, Ontario, Canada, with her parents and her three brothers. She is a third-year student at the McMaster University, enrolled in the Health Sciences Program. She loves to eat, read, write, and take long naps.