Episode 31: Balance

Present at the Editorial Table:

Kathleen Volk Miller

Jason Schneiderman

Tim Fitts

Sara Aykit

Sharee DeVose


Engineering Producer:

Joe Zang


On this week’s podcast, we review three poems by two authors: “The Riddle of Longing” by Faisal Mohyuddin and “Pyramids” and “American Wedding” by Shayla Lawson.


Faisal Mohyuddin

Faisal Mohyuddin teaches English at Highland Park High School in suburban Chicago, is a recent fellow in the U.S. Department of State’s Teachers for Global Classrooms program, and received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago in 2015. Mohyuddin is a lead teacher and advisor for Narrative 4 (narrative4.com), a global not-for-profit organization dedicated to empathy building through the exchange of stories. He is also an experienced visual artist who had the opportunity to participate in his first exhibition in October 2015. Check it out here!


We started off our conversation about “The Riddle of Longing” by discussing the singularity and the universality of the speaker’s circumstances. The poem put into perspective the reality that many immigrants and children of immigrants face in countries around the world. The imagery and language employed by Mohyuddin elicit various emotional responses and enforced the idea that, despite loss, life will continue on; and because everything persists, it may often persist in a broken state.

Shayla Lawson


Following “The Riddle of Longing,” we move on to Shayla Lawson’s first poem, “Pyramids.” Shayla Lawson is, was, or has been at certain times an amateur acrobat, an architect, a Dutch housewife, & dog mother to one irascible small water-hound. Find out more about her here and watch her read here! Then, you’ll want to follow her on Twitter: @blueifiwasnt


After spending some time figuring out what an isosceles triangle is, we examine the motivation and intent behind the poem, look at the challenging social commentary, and consider the beautiful balance of blasphemy and reverence. Whatever the message readers might take away from this piece, we were left wonderfully exhausted by the risk and fearlessness displayed in such strong, honest writing. In our final review, we look at “American Wedding” and acknowledge that an author’s writing can be very strong, but it’s always important to find the happy medium between what adds color to our work and what ultimately distracts and inhibits the reader from experiencing the raw goodness of it. The final poem opens up a relatable discussion about relationships, focus, and potential.


We close out this episode by discussing other podcasts our listeners might enjoy called “Sleep with Me,” a podcast that’ll put you to bed with a smile on your face, and “Dumb People Town.” Turn on and tune in!


Let us know what you think about these three poems and this episode on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with #riskybusiness! Feel free to also tell us whether you are on Team: “The Earth is Flat” or not!


Faisal Mohyuddin

The Riddle of Longing


When to be an immigrant’s

Son is to be a speaker of several


Broken tongues, each day

Leaves you homesick


For a place you’ve never

Touched, nor forgotten, and feel


The ache to know. When there is

No one left, you ask the wind


For directions. Your own

Voice returns your wish with


A map of your mother’s palms

Spoken into threads of blue


Light. Take the long way

Home, through the cemetery.


There, kiss your father’s name,

Bring back an echo of pain,


And a phlox. When years

Later your son finds it crushed


Within a book, he will feel

Against his face a warm puff


Of breath, yours, then

A wink of green wings behind


His eyes. Strange, that I am

Holding two large rocks,


Looking for something else

Sacred to smash open.


Shayla Lawson





I know died

on a pole.  He was not

a God—he did not want to 


be. He told

the thief  hanging

beside him “Welcome

to Paradise,” but all the man

could see were pyramids  / cheetahs



their wild

tails like an angry

mob.  I mean, what’s

the difference between the King


of All


& the Lord

of Man, & the god

of your Last Will & Testament.


In my


stripper fantasy,

Cleopatra wears spots

& scaffolds around you like

a vortex.  I lick her cheetah paws


& lap

dance into

your arms like

the baddest deity

of your dreams. You enter


me first

with a tail

I have grown

& I am as much

an animal as a diamond: solid



& pure.

The way

you say my name

in bed. You curse

every god you’ve ever met.  What’s




between a woman

set loose & a loose

woman & a woman who crowns




of a country

that is not / hers.

The Jesus I know is not


the kind

of insurgent

Jerusalem expects

after all that time building

the pyramids. You are Sampson



I pull

your hair.

I blind your eyes

& the pillars of your strength




like a temple. In

this way, I am the god

you hail from champagne



to bath

-tub baptism.

I wonder why,

if we are gods ourselves, we



—shout the

names of men

we worship only of

necessity. I am only a woman when


I complete

you. I disrobe

of all my God-given

parts. I wake up folded in

the shape of breasts & young


men’s jewelry.

I know why I love

only you & you & me

& working out the pyramid

-scheme of my gold– / toned profanity.
Shayla Lawson

American Wedding


I check out / my reflection

laced in bubble

foam on the passenger-side

window of a faded

Mustang I hand-rinse beside


the third bungalow I’ll occupy

as a new bride.  The automobile

never gets clean and I still wear

the veil. A tiny diamond

toils around my ring


finger; catches sludge

from the bucket as it wipes

in water. I get very good

at being arranged. I learn more

and more about what you make


when you need / to gain less

and less. Like television

in America, I am wonderful

with beginnings. In the faint

melody before the rewound


cassette, I hear the three

-fold harmony that floated me

down the aisle. I carry a Bible

& a girl who imagines

a marriage like Christ gave


the bride class—I don’t

understand when I am given

away.  I ask the first boy

who ever wanted my hand

about our generation


so littered in / tattoo. He

tells me ‘people are tired

of trying to find ways to keep

magic inside them.’   But I have

no use for supernatural forces;

I question the detail in every

ritual.  I am terrified

of what might posses

me. A month into my very own

divorce, I have day dreams


of a needle flood with

ink. The permanence :: Imagine

my nostalgia. I crush

a fountain pen: watch my sole

disperse into a deep blue ocean.

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