WRITTEN BY AYESHA ASAD
It is Ramadan,
and my father twists his finger,
expelling black stardust
onto hordes of chopped strawberries and kiwis.
Spiciness permeates the air,
settling in the tiny indentations
that pepper the fruit, like the dark specks
I try to fish out of my heart.
My bowl clamors its protest,
the clean white surface now a pallid scowl.
I want no stardust.
Instead, I want raucous Fourth of July parties,
where glassy red infernos
puncture indigo pinpricks
in a room of celestial bodies,
where fresh milk seeps into potatoes,
choking them thickly
in cots of gelatin.
Mother tilts her mouth,
and wisps of her language
tiptoe gingerly towards mine.
Has Pakistan been made yet?
she asks me, and I imagine
Iqbal – a hand curling a mustache,
smoothing a bicycle chain.
Has Pakistan been made yet – no,
or have I been made yet,
borne from the seedlings
of a retired judge and future author,
sprinkling garrulous beads
over sweet brown brew.
I don’t dance much,
pin myself at the edges
of florid chants and jeweled tikkas.
When my friends talk to their mothers
their voices undulate against normativity,
trembling with hai and mai,
jellied like aspic.
My lips stutter against leather hides
that flog my tongue,
and simple words arrive
cleaved through like ruptured lanterns.
I wish now that I had grasped that stardust
tightly between my fingers,
pricking my palm with the spores
that penetrate my heart.
Perhaps I would have discovered
how to erode shame
from my natural habitat.