“EXILE IS AN IMPERATIVE” by Ramsha Ashraf

On a glamorous rainy day, a man was shot dead,

in front of a foreign policeman’s local house,

the bullet left a tiny rabbit–hole in the forehead

providing a perfect sight for ghost-story-writers.

 

 

It affected nothing; no one had known the man,

people forgot, most did it in a few hours, but

a few took their time through the blue of days:

alarm for collective pain did not resonate.

 

Guns had taken over, schools were shut down,

food went missing and it wasn’t required as well

in any way the dead needed coffins not edibles.

Life is a comic series of errors; exile being one.

 

Exile is an imperative, fear made them realize.

Blood, bread and dead, a perfect theatricality

and a good cathartic way of pitying others,

not themselves, ones suffering from amnesia.

 

 

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Madison Street

After when the old night wraps

and cuddle the tired spring-day

in its arms. People leave

the Madison street for the Downtown weekend charm.

Its loneliness made me lost my way, twice.

I mistook Jefferson for Madison,

walked and walked

until the darkness hit my eyes.

Upon my asking the black boy

who works on the gas-station guided

the way back, dismantling my almost

white-supremacist-belief about blacks

and them being indecent and insensitive.

After getting slapped satisfactorily,

when I stepped on the Madison street,

I thought of you and your aloofness,

however, I knew the thought would die

after I enter my room and insert

‘faith-is-dead 417’ using the keyboard.

 

 

Here we are! 

Here we are!  

Nibbling on roses and hurting our throats with thorns, walking in narrow streets and breathing through suffocating spaces. After disposing all those little relics and after ‘whoring (with) our passions’ to the point of being non-existent.  

Here we are!  

Again, in each other’s arms. Avoiding, resisting and ultimately flowing out of each other’s bodies, licking the slide of saltish seconds slipping out of our hands, examining the transformations and eventually surrendering to what remains inevitable, the love.  

Here we are! 

In the moments where holding onto each other felt so difficult yet almost eternal. But, wait! This is what I feel and think. Maybe, you regret it. Maybe, you relish the sweetness of those moments too. I don’t know. I would never be able to know.  Time snatched my taste buds. Or maybe they are there, just that I have forgotten to taste. The taste of the past.  

I am changed! 

In a way that I have lost the touch with that peculiar vocabulary of love, somberness and, maybe, submissiveness too.  

 

I sit here! 

Thousands of miles away from our home and think about us. It may not send shivers down your spine, it isn’t the touch. It may alarm you and make you feel the discomfort which you probably would dismiss after removing the grains of sand entrapped in your shoes.  

Fear by Ramsha

The hair smell of mother’s November-illness,
nights have become a reminder of Bari Ami’s paralyzed tongue,
Two-hundred-miles away, there lives a man
whose ulcers are a threat to the growling stomach,
the girl who rescued herself through pills dances in the foggy front,
too much for the night to carry on its shoulders.

Blindness persists
behind all soliloquies,
the fear of being caught-up naked is stronger than pain
caused in the name of love.

Blues, Bruises and Burnt Fumes by Ramsha

Spend another night,
with eyes wide open,
in regret
that you didn’t preserve
your lover’s caresses 
in the jar of your body,
like those dead specimen
which amateur scientists
put in generic solutions,
for future experimentation.

Forget
that your memory betrayed
that you have survived
the blues and the bruises
of love.

Breathe.
Live on burnt fumes.

 

 

 

 

Paralysis

I cannot detest what lies in my womb,
Not even when the shadows of men
Touch my thighs as they walk by.

 

I cannot neglect what keeps coming up
To the edge of my throat, food or thought,
When I think about him dragging his legs
After midnight towards empty rooms,
When I place hands down on my abdomen,
When I see another, like him, crawling in my empty self…

But,
There is something up my throat
That I want to throw out,
Anxiously,
But,
My feet are cold
And I can’t gather courage
To force myself to let it out
But,
I will try this time
When I see the old man
Dragging his feet
Towards the empty room
In the middle of another
Dark, lonely, night.

 

Street Shame by Ramsha Ashraf

When the nights get too dark, too grotesque and too blurry to show the light of stars, which in fact, even in bearable times, keep smiling at the ordinariness of the earthlings, you try to forget whatever little you know.

Stench of the garbage,
It was born into,
Is enough to suffocate it.
The body is rotten,
To the core of its existence,
But the pretense exists
For the fear of being found out
Is too strong to shed the shell off.

The shame of the street,
That stinks of unprotected gutters,
naked, malnourished, and fearless children playing with nothing but pebbles,

The anxiety of being singled out,
And above all,
The horror of denying
What was expressed as its impression
Of defiance and rebellion,
What was mistook as its pride
In blood and belonging,

All is a burden for it to breathe…

It bleeds… It still bleeds…

It is not a human anymore

But cannot let the shame fall off its shoulders.

“Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda

Translated from Spanish by John Felstiner

 

 

It so happens I’m tired of being a man.

It happens I go into tailor shops and movies

shriveled up, impervious, like a felt-stuffed swan

steering through waters of origin and ash.

The smell of barbershops makes me break out sobbing.

All I want is the quiet of stones or wool,

all I want is to see no stores or gardens,

or merchandise or eyeglasses or elevators.

It happens I’m sick of my feet and fingernails

and my hair and my shadow.

It so happens I’m tired of being a man.

Still it would be a treat

to panic a notary with a cut lily

or do in a nun with one smack of an ear.

It would be sweet

to run through the streets with a green knife

screaming till I died of cold.

I just can’t go on as a root in the dark,

swaying, stretching, shivering with sleep,

downward in the sodden guts of the earth,

musing and steeping, every day eating.

I don’t want so much misery for me.

I can’t go on being root and tomb,

lonely cellar, warehouse of frozen

stiffs, croaking from grief.

That’s why Monday flares up like petrol

when it sees me coming with my jailhouse mug,

and howls like a wounded wheel as it rides by,

making hot bloody tracks toward night.

And shoves me to certain corners, certain dank houses,

hospitals with bones sailing out the window,

to certain shoe stores reeking of vinegar,

streets as frightful as gullies.

There are sulfur-tinged birds and hideous intestines

hanging from the doors of houses I hate,

there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,

here are mirrors

that must have wept for shame and horror,

umbrellas everywhere, poisons, and navels.

I’m walking around with calm, eyes, shoes,

rage and forgetfulness,

I walk along, skirting offices and orthopedic shops,

and backyards with clothing hung from a wire:

underpants, towels, and shirts that weep

slow dirty tears.

Federico Garcia Lorca presenting Pablo Neruda: Madrid, December 1934

“I say you are about to hear an authentic poet, one who has forged himself in a world that’s not ours, that few people perceive. A poet closer to death than philosophy, to pain than intellect, to blood than ink. A poet filled with mysterious voices that luckily he himself doesn’t know the meaning of. A true man who does know that the reed and the swallow are more permanent than the hard cheek on a statue…He stands up to the world, full of honest terror, and lacks two things so many false poets have lived with?hate and irony. When he’s about to condemn and raises his sword, suddenly he finds himself with a wounded dove between his fingers.”

pb 1
Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda in Stockholm with his wife Matilda after he received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Silkworms, Swathes and the Dead by Ramsha Ashraf

Epigraph

So…

It feels, again, like being a silkworm

Cocooned in a shell built upon its own saliva,

Reflecting the memory-aches,

With one thread hanging out of the shell

Living beyond time and space,

Which might be inferred as a calculation inside the cocoon.

The illusion, that it isn’t dark, inside, could be smudged easily

For darkness always stays in each corner

Wherever there is the name of a god.

(1)

The ‘Roza’ felt betrayed for the first time, in the naïve summer,

When the caramel of your lips was offered, a perquisite.

The religion had died many years ago, in my dry womb,

Before it could see the light of day as an infant,

And, before it could suckle the usual fluid

Of naivety from the nipples of slumber.

In retrospect… I feel, I can do the same again

For that ride to the wonderland. For one kiss.

Feet intersecting, mine placed upon yours,

Souls worshiping the void while standing

In the middle of another void,

With number seventeen at the end of its name.

(2)

The smell of the neon light grows stronger,

More and more intense as time transforms…

I could feel the gangrene

Growing in your stomach

Gesticulating, Omnipotent.

(3)

The blues stay with us

In the saliva of that one kiss

Which remains our first and last

Ride to the wonderland.