Illustration by Anne Le Guern

Once is still burial. The rain closes
               on gravel, cementing solid
a sterile garden.

               The gravestones
already chipping.

               Fresh out of detonation,
a reddening horizon beats
               the map into tongue,
censoring the sun
               out of light.

In this blind relief, the city slits
               rust. The noise a gong
in scrape. The moon God’s rib.

               All summer, I scrubbed my face
off the mirror.

               All summer, monsoon winds
lifted a fallen spring carcass
               into another new herbage,
where now I stand
               in America — shivering.

               My luggage thrown open
against toes, exposing my skins
               all over the airport floor.

For hours, I watched dogs
               dig for my bones.

When I enter a new house,
               I sit in my unfurnished room,
and tongue the stamps
               in my weak passport,
before hiding it underneath my shirt.

               This country. That country.
Some woman. Another body.

               In the canal. On the motorway.
The police car exits.
               The TV exposes: human remains
are found in the belly of August,
               padded like teeth beneath a fleeing aircraft.

I have no idea where my father is.
               I can’t apologize enough.

In the morning, I am quick
               for once. My hand leaves
my neck like a petal.
               The other palms the heat
from my mouth.

               No breakfast.
Or sound of birds.
               Or cradle.

My throat just throat.

Before leaving, I had put bra on bra
               to bury my silhouette
into dilapidation.
               Inhale ash. Smother lung.

               After arriving, every dawn
is deranged. I adjust spectacles. Squint.
               Attempt heaven

to sky
               to lifeline.

Ayesha Raees

Ayesha Raees عائشہ رئیس identifies herself as a hybrid creating hybrid poetry through hybrid forms. Her work strongly revolves around issues of race and identity, G/god and displacement, and mental illness while possessing a strong agency for accessibility, community, and change. Raees currently serves as an assistant poetry editor for AAWW’s The Margins and has received fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Brooklyn Poets, and Kundiman. Her debut chapbook, Coining a Wishing Tower, won the Broken River Prize and was published by Platypus Press. From Lahore, Pakistan, she currently shifts between Lahore, New York City, and Miami.