REDMOND – When you’re a street poet and people are waiting in line, there’s no time for writer’s block.
Afrose Fatima Ahmed sits at a red table in Redmond with her green portable Hermes Rocket typewriter and a stack of blank quarter-sheets of paper.
People step up, take a seat next to her and, after a short give-and-take, propose a topic close to them. Or they give her the name of a loved one.
Ahmed’s poetry flows out, carried “by intuition. I just go with it, no time to second-guess it.” She says she once paused for almost 30 seconds, but usually just dives in.
“I listen, then I respond intuitively, unconsciously.”
Ahmed, who lives in the Tri-Cities, has a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University and a master’s from the University of Texas. She speaks Urdu, and likes Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and Kashmiri American poet Agha Shahid Ali.
She writes about “the community of us.”
The typewriter, her fifth or sixth, produces the crisp, distinct sound of work as the keys rise up and strike the paper. The carriage return signals the end of a line.
It’s a lot of sound for such a little machine.
No electricity is needed but for the spark of her imagination, “a dance of co-creation with an artist,” as Ahmed calls it.
This is serious work. But there’s a quick and easy elegance to it.
People have asked for poems about illness and grief.
She says, “I wanted to censor the shadow out of my own work. But, I feel the work I do is healing, but unassuming.”
A couple step up and ask for a piece about traveling the world.
Within seconds Ahmed begins:
no one ever says
how vast the sea can feel
when we are but tiny dots
on a small ship cradled
in the earth’s womb
i am but a bug skimming the surface
of a foreign city
not knowing the language
but feeling the depth of the work
swirling around me
a part of it all
The Awarun family, with 6-week-old Simona asleep in her carriage, approaches.
we enter this world
together through & of
each other how hearts are born
like acorn from the oak
you, tiny but containing
a hundred foot giant
just waiting to sprout
from your sweetness
People leave the poet’s table touched, saying they’re going to frame the sheet.
Some say they might cry, moved by words written just for them.
Ahmed sometimes runs out of paper, but not words.