To Build a Home

By: Amani Raheel

My ma says

She pushed my stroller

around the bumpy streets of

Queens, Jamaica, Long Island,

even Manhattan,

Through rain and snow, all



Finding no help from the

passengers, all ignoring her

silent plea

She struggled to lift me,

And my clunky stroller onto

the bus,

As the doors began to close on

her, ready to shut her out.

Pushing past the passersby, a

destination in mind

In cold New York, I was a

weak replacement,

For a home lost to her past.


She listened to my babbles,

my nonsense, my gurgles and

My dreaded screeches in the

dead of the night.

She pleaded with me, saying,

“When will you respond to

my words?”

I responded.

But with a baby’s ignorance,

Simply staring with my

ignorant eyes.

Motherhood in New York,

For her, was lonelier than



Daddy Ji walks into our home,

cold and tired.

He walks into the basement,

rented from a Yugoslav.

A home under another home,

Two different tracks of life,

running parallel.

He’s seen a mirthless 11 years

of New York life,

11 years of American life

before that fateful year of ’97.

The year I came.

I reminded him what a home



A life alone at 19, spent

walking the streets of New

York with no guide And a

dialogue of radio-English.

He was a cup already full of


Rockland College to NYIT, his

tuition he paid,

Every lonely penny.


The Stock Market surge of the

‘90s knocks on our door.

A penny becomes pennies.

Rich man Raheel, hustling

big numbers, with new doors


A life where every thread is

stretched taut with worries,

Has begun to loosen.


“Life is on its upswing.”

Daddy says to me, while I

roost in his lap,

“Ever since you came along.”

Yet the striking reality of

leaving a life behind, 12 hours

into the future,

Still strikes cold and hard at

every idle passing.


My mother is hunched over

the phone wire in our new


Shouting at the phone,

through the phone,

to her mother, lamenting and


Trying to share her new

family, her new home,

Through a piece of plastic and

cold science.

It gets lost somewhere in the



Lonesome and homeless,

They lived in a home they

could not call their own.

They drank their woe with


And swallowed their pride

with old toast.

That’s all they could afford.


They were given no

guidebook, no explanation on

how to build a home.

But slowly, each hardship

procured the next step.

Each bite, each dollar, each

smile had to be earned.


The foundation had to be built

up with sorrows, loneliness,

and pain.

The walls had to be struck up

with confusion, humiliation

and failure.

The roof had to be patched up

with anger, sleepless nights

and the haunting static of