DIY clocks

Click here to hear:


For a fun DIY

A boy named Ahmed

made a clock.

He brought it to school

where time passes

like tick tock


He gets arrested

then divested


And the life of the prophet Muhammad

as a boy comes to me from history


An orphan

left to herd sheep

who traded upward

to a rich wife

and a life of faith


And then I imagine Cassius Clay

becoming Ali

and I wonder about Lew Alcindor

becoming Kareem

and I ponder Malcolm Little’s

bigger voice as Malcolm X


Someone says to me, hey,

your kid in that picture

as a boy in South Africa

looks like a boy we knew

as Ahmed, too smart

for his own good


And I see the picture of my

girlfriend from Algeria,

who held him as a baby:

“I want to call him

Ahmed. He looks like an Ahmed.”


Instead we call him

after my husband and his father

and his father’s father

because that is what it should be

for the first born in his caste


And in the middle is my father’s name

which came to us

from a slaveholder

in Mississippi


On the news I see Ahmed

looking as my son does now

his parents trying to make a way



They serve pizza to the press,

show how they know

people should be treated

how we Americans all like pizza

even boys named Ahmed,

shy yet proud of his science


Amid tweets from the White House,

and, of course, Zuckerberg’s Facebook crew,

all suddenly wanting to be like Ahmed, too


The haters still see

a bomb, a boy

black and Muslim


©Carla Williams-Namboodiri, 2016

Carla Williams-Namboodiri, BAWP Summer Institute 2010, works for Oakland schools as a humanities educator. As part of the BAWP manuscript group, she has produced fiction set in her hometown, Chicago, which also has appeared in Digital Paper. This is her first poem. Follow her blog,

2 Responses to “A DIY Clock by Carla Williams-Namboodiri”

  1. Shirley Says:

    Thank you Carla for sharing this poem. It’s so nice to hear it read in your voice. Deep roots of racism and Christian hegemony against a boy who was “proud of his science” – black and Muslim… Sadly, one cannot eat enough pizza in one’s lifetime to rid the U.S. and world of Islamophobia.

  2. your poem, Carla, is a welcome tribute to Ahmeds everywhere — thanks for writing and sharing it!

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