I need detailed explanation of the poem "The Feed" by Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.Holding a grain of millet in her beakThe mother sparrow has come to feed.The young ones are so tiny and smallFrom head to...

I need detailed explanation of the poem "The Feed" by Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.

Holding a grain of millet in her beak
The mother sparrow has come to feed.
The young ones are so tiny and small
From head to toe they are beaks
When they cry.
One grain to be fed to the ten young ones
To whom the mother sparrow should feed?
Conjoining beak with beak
With whom should she solace?
Fissuring the atom,
You have learnt to weep and wail in a loud tone,
Splitting the grain,
You have learnt to set life on foot
Could you split the grain?
One grain to be fed to the ten young ones.

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

   "The Feed," a poem by Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, seems so beautifully simple. Translated into English from Urdu, the poem addresses the problem of a mother bird that has only one grain of food to feed her  baby birds.  Which of the young sparrows should receive the grain?  Who does the mother chose?  The reader never knows because Qasmi does not answer these questions.  The reader must decide for himself.

   Albeit the language is easily understood, the poem does much more than present the plight of the mother bird.  Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi was a legendary Urdu and English Pakistani poet.  His poetry was renowed for its appeal to the common man and his abiliity to humanize even the most bucolic situations.  Thus, the mother bird represents the predicament faced by mothers all over the world. 

   In "The Feed," the poet provides a means of comparison between the mother bird's quandary and the Pakistani mother who struggles to feed her children.  Look carefully at the word choice: "the young ones...", not the young birds; "When they cry..." not chirp or howl; "With whom should she solace...", not support or help.  By humanizing his word choice, he enables the reader to gaze beyond the words and see a human problem.  Like other third world countries, many Pakistani parents struggle to give the most basic essentials to their children.  When the food and water are limited, which of the children grasps the succor from the mother...a hard choice for the bird or the human mother.

   The poet divides his poem into two distinct parts: the mother bird's dilemma and the breaking apart of the grain.  The first half of the poem presents the problem;  then, the poet addresses the solution to the problem.  Using the metaphor of splitting the atom which can ultimately cause a nuclear reaction and the loss of human life to the dividing of the grain of millet, Qasmi opens up new issues:  Who is the "you" who learned to get attention by crying and wailing?; who is he asking to fissure the atom or grain?; how will this fix the problem; and is the "you" the giver or the taker?

   Obviously, there is more to this poem than just the sad story of the mother bird and her babies.  The world is filled with poverty, humger, and no solutions.  Do we fissure the atom and exterminate the problem?  Has the world been split into those who have and those who have not?  Unfortunately, the impoverished face their children every day with the question: How do we split the food so that each of the children get a portion.?

   In the last line of the poem the question becomes so simple or is it? Could you choose between your children as to who eats and who does not?  In "Sophie's Choice" by William Styron, the main character faces the crisis of which of her children to keep with her and which to give over to the Nazis.  Pressured to decide, she quickly selects her son to go with her, knowing that she is sending her daughter to her death.  Yes, a different set of circumstances, but ultimately, the same result for the child or baby birds.

   One researcher describes this poem as a love story in which the mother bird suffers over how to feed her children.  Obviously, the mother's love increases her conflict, yet the love story is marred by the lack of a solution that will give solace to both the mother and the little ones.  Is Qasmi's poem just a bird story or a cautionary tale of very real human problem?