how do i take my body out to space
and be so weightless
that gravity pulls out my teeth
and carries them to jupiter.
my body has been trying to
fly away from me all my life
––it stays in awkward grief.
how do i vanish away from myself, be so
full of nothing that all voids are full of me.
yet, i know, to be nothing is still to be something.
because in nothingness i see my own reflection
reflecting back at me ––an eye looking at the eye
which does not exist yet still exists––
what is it that they say about paradoxes again?
they never quite make sense but hurt in all the
is this what this is or what it is not?
i missed writing even though i have no idea what it means to me anymore
a memory that once couldn’t be contained within a room
suddenly fits itself into the palm
of your hand.
this is what happens when you turn around in the middle of walking way
—this is what distance does—
trees that once shadowed over you
now seem like fallen clouds obscuring the city that turned you away.
and it’s like that every time i close my eyes half way,
the world becomes softer,
lights blur out and cars look like lost stars
hurtling down the one way road; it’s not sleep nor awake, it’s in between some white noise
and some far away traffic, it’s sailing slowly, it’s dreaming on the way home with eyes half-open still remembering what you left behind
most of my life i don’t remember
most of it was a blur;
it was like watching everything close up from a moving train
all i remember were the moments
of extreme color
all i thought was, ‘maybe this is beautiful —if only the train stopped; if only i was moving slowly i could be sure that what was unfolding before me was beautiful, was worth stopping for’
a work in progress
i once had dream that ran from my hands and fell into the river;
i stood like stone, watched it leave with my own eyes until it disappeared into the ocean.
that night i dreamt of lost things returning like ships from sea and
i awoke with traces of salt clinging to me like grief.
Your mother tongue dislodges from its place of origin to fit another language
––there is salt in your mouth from the sea you swallowed in its place.
From the back of your throat something is saying goodbye
in the only way it knows how––disappearing one word at a time.
If you forget something long enough it forgets you too.
The thing is that you only belong to what belongs to you.
Abandoning home was your way of moving forward
and so you left not knowing you taught yourself a magic trick.
Forget enough words and they become thoughts without form.
Forget enough places and they deteriorate with time.
Forget enough people and you start to make it a habit of being alone.
The thing is, the thing is you only belong to what belongs to you.
So, what happens when you forget one home to adopt another?
What happens when your mother tongue disappears in the ocean between two lands?
What happens when you realize all your goodbyes are staggering out of your mouth
in a broken language that did not know enough words to make this parting beautiful?
inside my head a piano plays
chopin’s aeolian harp.
in the fullness of this air
the dust sweeps off my bookshelf, in grand fashion
oscillating in the light,
the same sunlight, which blooms over my face
turning me gold, then white, then back to flesh.
past the the sound of passing cars,
the open window with its mouth full of cold air,
there is a bird cascading from the sky
it is gold, alive
then white in mourning
then flesh once more before turning to
what do we do with this light
that places all its fullness on us?
shall we dance as dust does,
then settle like a memory of touch and
swither in death as we do in life?
let it be known that i was listening to Chopin's Aeolian Harp when writing this (which doesn’t mean that this poem is great, just that i had a good time writing it).
‘i hope i die in autumn’
‘what a morbid thought’
‘it’s a beautiful season to depart from
one life to the next’
the last time i cried for someone
else i prayed that God only gave me
my own sadness to choke on
because i couldn’t take yours away,
and i know that helplessness cannot be helped
—that we are here briefly,
not to take the pain away
but to suffer together;
to become mirrors, unfiltered reflections of what we really are
and i’m sorry that such
thoughts even exist
i wish there were only blooming roses
in all our autumn deaths;
what a season it is to be with you though
and depart from one sadness
to the next.
destiny is something
i cannot escape from;
a message came to me in the dead of night,
held my hands in prayer,
and recited two verses of a poem
that lingered in my dream;
i awoke, breathless,
in rapturous grief, fleeing from what
i thought would consume me entirely.
i left a desert, a poem disappearing in the distance.
some nights it visits me
shimmering under my eyes,
a memory full of oases washes up to the shore
of my consciousness.
hands veiled in gold threads,
my name written within their reach,
rush over me.
how heartless it is to open
my eyes only now,
to watch the poem vanish letter by letter,
––all my prayers turning to dust.
what will search for me, now that
i have left everything behind?
you come hurtling from the sky and
your arrival brings forth the life you had
before you met your end.
you came to give the rivers a reason
to rush to oceans;
you came in fists full of
you didn’t know how to mold.
––but somewhere in this descent
you also learned how to find peace
and so when you crashed, at long last,
your sigh of relief washed over the earth;
your death was a moment of life
and this moment unwraps like a final act of kindness,
like a last form a prayer takes before
departing from the lips.
it’s been a while since i used a rain metaphor.
erase my face
erase my name, call me
and then send me to the wind,
throw me out to sea;
erase these hands and
leave them soulless;
my whole life escaped in
trying to disappear
––what an ache,
what a waste, what a regret,
I should've just lived instead.
you dip your head back against the sunset trying to forget what is rushing back to you
but the memories come
like bellowed clouds full of smoke,
it is all too suffocating,
all too consuming.
and so your promises fly out the window of your car and
you swear someday you’ll
move far away from this ash-filled town.
but the clouds are in the air and they
laugh and they laugh,
oh, how they laugh.
to think that
there is a place
with gardens untamed, unruly
––a place full of wanderings,
of tangled conversations with
leaves and trees.
to think that there are blue butterflies
roses blooming against the wind
to think that i am this
with no place to go
but to my own thoughts
the unsent letters to God i wrote in my sleep
open up in front of me like a last breath,
when i close my eyes
a white cloth falls from the sky to cover me and i hear
the sound of my mother’s bangles as she runs towards me
this isn’t peace
these are nightmares, which shook me from my sleep
these are fevered dreams so deep in my mind i lose the ground beneath me,
these are places where death touched me;
all know is
my mother’s worry, my mother’s worry, my mother’s worry
rushing towards me
the same way a burning light runs
towards a certain, intangible, consuming darkness.
it is not the depth of the river
which tempts me to sink
my lungs within it.
it is the way the water runs
over itself with such purpose
as though the river is full of
a peaceful slumber rushing
over one dream to another.
it is the way it glides
over my feet
passing as though i am no
trouble at all;
it is the acceptance.
it is the lullful tenderness of
the ripples which
i’ll tell it to you like this
—you believe there are places that
cannot grow anything despite the rain and there
are places that you often leave untouched
because they are so tender and so full of love.
it’s like this —you’d rather walk in a
desert than a garden, because you know the
coldness of your own heart.
It’s like this,
—you see beautiful things
but never see yourself.
so you blister instead of bloom.
instead of heal.
this house creaks
with a heaviness
tired of carrying the
weight of all my lives within it
someday i’m sure it will
crush me in my sleep,
and my breath will be easier
to ***** out than a candle
and so i dream, i dream of weightless things
of feathers and petals
of things with wings
—wings sprouting like plants
from the blades of my shoulder
oh, i ache with some lost tale
of survival i do not believe in.
this house is tinted eggshell blue
and the thing with feathers
is passing through,
holds me the way it holds
—so weary from the sorrow,
slipping into the rubble,
clinging onto my existence
just as one drowning man clings to another.
this is an odd poem
the only thing that keeps
away the darkness
is the light
i burn within myself.
so i have been half flame
half someone else.
this isn’t a way to exist;
it’s a way to survive.
it doesn’t end does it
it does, eventually
i don’t think so.
the falling never stops.
the feeling still sits in the
middle of me. it doesn’t end
or go away.
there are some things
we can’t change.
things that are bound to be
a part of us.
i just wish for a little while
cease to exist entirely.
i’d still be here even if you
whatever you leave unsaid
unsaid forever and all that
you have said
is eventually lost in time.
you only share the silence,
which exists when everything
else ceases to exists.
that’s sad isn’t it?
it’s a relief
there is only silence
from whence the voice spoke
the world above us
or perhaps, it is us that
as lost conversations with the void.
the sky is in flames
velvet to the touch.
in this glossed world of chaos,
i am the three shades of blue you will never see.
there are parts of me
pulled from me.
i am a streetlight,
an old pipe,
running water into sewers.
the dichotomy between us exists
when what plagues me cannot plague you.
there are spaces in you
vastly different from everyone else.
there are clouds of grief
sitting in your stomach
no one else can ever stomach.
––yet you pulled away from you
is still you, though slightly diluted.
our worlds are ending in different phases,
i see the sky is in flames
velvet to the touch;
you and i are standing under the same sun
with different shadows covering our own regrets.
you don’t have to know what will
survive after the fire.
you just have to believe something
this won’t save you
but perhaps, it will make the fire
lilac skies wrap around my head
and i can barely see over the tall grass,
it tangles around me
i can’t move i tell you
[you don’t understand
—everything around me suffocates me]
i am restless in pursuit of the sun
and perhaps, i might be lost after all.
once, in the middle of the night
my thoughts took me away
to a place so dark,
i spent seven years
swallowing my own sadness
and i struggle
does that make sense?
somehow it’s all in my head,
so how do i explain it?
that i am in a clear field
and the grass is what i imagined.
that the sky was ruefully lilac
and the sadness is what took my breath away.
she once told him that persimmons
are full of grief because she misses
something lost when she eats them.
persimmon trees were planted in the garden
after the death of his beloved.
consumed within his grief he would spend all his time
watching the trees.
One night, while strolling through the garden
and thinking of all things departed,
he saw the persimmon trees were in bloom––
cream-colored bells draped over him
and among them a nightingale
that began to sing.
every night he would listen and
slowly lower himself towards the roots
to rest against the tree, trying to recall
all of his fading memories.
and he would dream a dream of forgotten things
until finally, he fell asleep for centuries.
and all his bones turned to dust,
there, under the persimmons.
when dawn arose some centuries ago
the first of the fruit
plummeted to the ground
and the nightingale never sang again.
why should death run after me,
i am already five different shades of scarlet.
my breath runs warm
but the grief that survived after you
still lives within me.
i am that tear that somehow escaped from the soul.
the rest of me fades away as the journey continues.
what should i call such a loss, such a journey?
what i shall name that which was never named?
i am alive
but i almost die trying to exist.
i am awake
but my fate has been asleep
since i stopped remembering you.
someday you will know
the price of living half a life.
how it is filled with empty rooms, that have
enough floors to cover all your grief.
but no consolation for it to ever end.
it has enough walls to paint over
with white anger. blank. unending.
unyielding. white. anger.
but what is the point of this wrath, that leaves you
starving for the kind of warmth you only ever felt in a dream.
someday you will know
that perhaps, in protecting yourself from the hurt,
you lost a lot of beautiful things and people
who came with it.
you once told me
of your anger and sometimes
i wonder what you did with it.
did you bury it in your chest again,
let it turn everything within
you into smoke? did you ever
find a way to survive?
i only ask because
i am burning
with things i do not understand.
i only ask because my hands
are on fire,
and i don’t know where all this rage
is pouring from.
what lingers here, leaving only
once your memory fell through
and escaped from my hands like a river,
it is gold, forever now, because of it.
here, something once so dark
is asking me,
where is all this light coming from?
Orange ribbons fall around me
as she unveils the fruit, her nails digging
into the speckled skin, the juice drips down to her elbows
before smudging into the ground and
the air is a citrus canticle, I am singing songs about tomorrow.
There every sunset was an orange muse,
the sun a tangerine token depressing to the navel
of the sky–
peeling its colors behind the winter clouds,
bitter–sweet in saying goodbye.
Beneath a copper veil my nails sink into my skin
and reams of four form crescent marks
in the palms of my hand;
that winter has passed into years,
and the oranges taste different here.
i found a collection of old letters
between the books of your bookshelf.
stories between stories,
ink dried on the hands
for the one to read
beneath the lonesome night.
some history lies open on my lap
it knows nothing but your words,
i am silent
the night is dark again with the ink of yours eyes,
another moon passes over me in phases
a nightingale sings with its throat full of longing
somewhere under this dark are my hands holding my heart
to my chest
a softness is breaking in silence
and there was a mirror in my dreams full of you
—a white doe’s eyes gazing at the hunter
Ammi told me about fitrat,
the day my cat almost jumped
over the fence to catch a bird.
“why does he always do that,”
i mumbled under my breath.
“it’s in his fitrat and we can’t change that.”
i looked up surprised she heard me at all.
“Ammi, what is in a person’s fitrat?”
Ammi was quiet and then replied,
“it is a person’s nature to never be satisfied,
no matter how much he has, he always wants more.
he will spend his whole life hunting after his desire
but this is a thirst that can never
he is restless and dies restless.”
Fitrat: Urdu word for the inherent nature of a thing or person
I hear voices singing in the name i left behind for you to wear,
sickly sweet voices stuck in throats so rotten, come running after you, dragging your feet into the ocean.
i would join in the depths but i’m running out of breath, i’ve seen so much of death, i’m afraid i might be next.
i swear, i swear my love, I am no traitor, but since my very birth they’ve doomed me for something greater.
and i’ve learned to run from everything that trembles these bones —i swear, i swear my love, i’ve never known the feeling of coming home.
—sirens are singing the song of my prophecy, i don’t dare turn around this time, forgive me.
For centuries a throne room lies in waiting
For a king who has lost his way home
The land grows barren,
No sign of hope is left
In the depths of the sea
Sirens sing of a prophecy,
Legend has foretold the coming of
When a man learns to stand
On his wounded legs,
In front of the thing he fears
Without running back
A throne room lies in waiting for destiny
To light the empty lantern
A crown sits on top of a vessel
Who sees nothing but his loss
In the lines of his own two hands,
Blood like water
Runs like a river,
Down from his legs
To the ground beneath his feet,
Where shall he ever find the courage that he seeks?
Loosely inspired by the Fisher King
a boy is fleeing
from the flames with
embers at his feet,
he chokes on the nostalgia
of the lost
swearing it was the last
time he'd ever go back,
a boy flees from
and yet, these flames
never seem to leave his
his hands turn to smoke
during the night,
like a cry for help
before he’s all burnt out.
your hands bring roses,
like a red death
hurtling from space
right into my palms.
i know this gesture
all too well, i have seen
a night emerge
out of memory with your
across the blood moon
how does one continue his journey without looking back to see what he has turned from? he cannot.
for he is tethered to his past, no matter how far he runs from it.
he is bound to run back to the thing that broke him, just to see if, after all this time, it still does.
excerpt from an incomplete poem
are not eyes they are
pools of yearning,
solemnly running through
reflecting everything in you
this is why you keep your gaze down
it is not that
you are not separate
from me which makes me restless;
it is that you are of me.
that i see you
and with you is my aks, reflection.
what nature of vanity
is this, my love —i look to you and see only myself?
Aks: urdu word for reflection
do you see how brilliantly
the light from the other side
shall i carry the veil of my soul
towards it? shall i fly gloriously
into as it cascades in abundance?
oh, shall i meet the warmth i have
been starved of at last?
finally it is near, near enough to engulf me,
do i dare disturb this peaceful wakening?
sink to the bottom
of my stomach, rotting
like old, over-ripened fruits
with seeds of doubt growing
after a lifetime
a voice emerges from
the depths of the past,
and with its arrival
a memory that has slept
out of grief,
awakes once more with
hope tucked under both arms
the shades of your emergence
stains the nights
i have spent in suffering
with a light,
i swear there is a new
dawn grazing the ocean,
awaiting in the
golds of your eyes, hiding in
the shadows of your words
some people never stay
long enough for you
to say goodbye.
sometimes they leave quietly
while you are lost in thought,
some people leave as if
they never existed.
they leave you with nostalgia filling in
empty spaces between your words,
a knot tying
to your chest,
a heaviness settling
another goodbye wedged to
the bridge of your throat,
some people leave
not knowing how
much they left behind
i run into mirages so often
i am no longer sure of reality
there lies an empty well
no matter how much i fill it
it never fills
my hands have turned red
carrying buckets of regrets,
it digs deeper with every
sharp intake of a breath
sometimes the sun
is so bright that
my eyes play tricks on me,
i see oasis’s in places they
a flickering lantern
by your door,
i think it is in hopes
of my return
but i run into mirages so
often... i am too weary to run after
you, for surely you’ll
disappear the very second
my fingertips start to reach
i have travelled
with parched lips splitting scarlet,
crescent eyes wandering the skies
searching for a meaning
that cannot be found
something like courage sleeps
tentatively between my brow,
my hands reach within me and
come back shaking,
both palms filled with fear
yet i do not dare lift an eyelash
at fate, it tests me as it must,
i suffer as i should
this is the life of a musafir, *
a journey of the self that never ends, a pain that lives almost infinitely
and every breath
that passes, passes through in breaks
*musafir: persian word for traveler, wanderer, passenger, etc.
feels unfinished but i’m okay with it
there are places so warm
that they are not of this world.
rather they seem as if they linger
in the realm of
a colossal sanctuary veiled
overflow with rivers
running with the sun on
their backs; glinting in speckled
gold and silver armor
with a warmth no one is
ever able to touch.
you are breathtaking
with every turn i turn,
there is no place worldly enough
to contain you.
you are so unreal i am sure, i
must still be dreaming
a dream i dreamt so long ago.
you once yelled out all
your secrets into the cold of the night,
thinking that your words
were swallowed by the void
but the night carried your
secrets, poured them all down with
that fell onto your streets,
until every alleyway knew the words you
stitched to your chest
you run from place to place,
never staying long enough
to catch a breath.
what keeps you on your
toes, wanderer? why are you so afraid
of the thing you love the most?
why run city to city, when you know
you can never outrun your truth?
tell me all about your
what love have they seen
to make them break with such color?
for their beauty aches with
the brilliance of stars.
veiled in tinges of blues and greens.
it is as if they have swallowed
the sorrows of the seas
so much magic in you,
i forget you are human
they say to me that patience
is a seed, covered in the soil of the earth.
plunged in darkness.
buried like death with the hope of life.
but no one knows that better than me,
for i have been waiting for
something i will never receive.
i tend to my roses,
knowing that they
have wilted and withered
into the warmth of the earth
yet i still wait for the bloom,
like a sign of redemption,
but the death of roses has not a drop of life.
they will not bring with them the hope
for a new day
no matter, no matter
how long i wait
a dying man finds the light in his last breath. even after years spent in utter darkness, his eyes touch the light so softly
he arrives to his death with a flickering drop of hope and pours it into his grave before he lays.
they bury him under the cloak of the night with the earth running over his shoulders, encasing him forever within her
and the drop of hope that filled his grave turned his very being into dust.
the very dust that sits in the parting of your lips.
i am afraid of fate.
for it seems that i have found a light in you.
i am terrified that you might become the message of my death,
that you might be what turns me to dust.
you spent most of your
life watching people leave
even though they meant the world
and you never get used it.
it still hurts.
every goodbye ever spoken
wakes you up from your dreams
and in the middle of the night
you look up into the sky,
will it ever be you who’s leaving
and not the one who’s left