“The thing about trauma is it’s like the biggest, most absorbent sponge; it will absorb everything into it, it will swallow you up. It’s like the memory foam mattress from hell. You have to get out before it has you memorized.
I do this the best way I know how — through the dictionary of Fashion. If I treat my trauma like an accessory, it doesn’t define me and I can manipulate it like I manipulate clothes. Nothing will ever swallow me whole.”
one day, some towers fell
and the world rocked on its heels
and grew blisters between its toes.
yesterday, my grandmother called
and with a voice thick like anesthesia
and shaky like war, she told us the drones
fly over Pakistan when the skies are bluest.
with bullet-shaped silence on my end,
she tells me that blue skies mean
different things in different nations.
one day, some towers fell.
it is a dozen years later, a thousand
suns and moons and caskets made to fit
infant bodies, and my sister watches
a commercial for skin lightening cream.
i will wake in the middle of the blackest night
to the sound of her warm feet
against bathroom tile. i will listen
to her gasping breath as she washes her face
with the cold side of the tap
over and over and over again.
i will listen to her sigh
as she realizes for the fifth night in a row
that this brown
does not wash off, does not
spill into the drain, does not
peel itself into a whiter,
one day, some towers fell.
one day, i came to Canada on a plane
with peppermint candies and foldable tables
and my henna coloured hand clutched
in my mother’s.
one day, i came home
from a new school with my native tongue
carved out from under me,
with a tougher, harder language
in its place, with a language that never bathed me
on a Lahore roof, never sold ginger chai on
the street corner, never drove rickshaws
like there were dreams tied to the bumper.
a language that only side-eyed me
when i climbed on the school bus,
only coloured my brown cheekbones pink
and the space between my white tights yellow
when i did not know how to ask for the bathroom,
a language that only called me a
“terrorist”, only named
my brown baby skin “exotic but not enough”,
only faulted my father’s hands for those towers
when the only words bookmarked in my
English dictionary were “home” and
like schoolgirls they played
in the cherry fields, weeping when
it left blood on their hands
She will find herself
in the corners of your kitchen cabinets,
uneaten and raw.
She will be the witching hour,
the quiet minute after flatline.
She will be the waking up into a silence
of morning breath and empty bedside.
She will let this be her year of cold linoleum
and smiling only when it fits her.
She will let this be the year of falling
every way, falling every direction
She will look for herself under
fallen cactus needles.
She will rip out the first pages
of all her books and
She is her own sacred spine now.
She is letting herself kneel
in all ways that don’t dent her knees.
She will find herself only on the day
she forgets to look, only on the day
she wakes up thinking she is a little less
than nothing and the sky is coughing its way
into a buttery and wide warmth
without her knowing.
I wake up and taste poetry in my mouth,
and that’s how I know I have
been dreaming about you again.
There are a thousand planets living in between
your eyelashes alone,
but I promise not to love you like you are my universe.
It would be dishonest,
and you probably deserve better than that.
My mother keeps asking me
why I’m peeling my lips away
to get rid of a name
I’ve never kissed,
and I still don’t have an answer for her yet.
I stopped playing piano in the seventh grade
when my hands started shaking so badly,
I thought they were drunk.
I look for you in raining sunsets
and flowers on other girl’s doorsteps
and I can’t tell if you are there or not.
I have never asked anyone to stay before,
but that doesn’t mean
I don’t cry when they leave.
I spend a lot of time writing
to people who can’t remember
the color of my eyes,
and maybe I should keep things
like that to my self.
We aren’t meant to be together
in this lifetime,
so we’ll have to try again
in the next one.
You have to promise me you’ll
because I don’t think I can
lose you like this again.
There’s only so much poetry
I can write about your hands
before I start to forget
what your love line looks like
and where it leads to.
I’ve been telling myself this whole
time that it was leading to me.
Maybe I’ve been wrong.
Please tell me I’m not wrong.