Ayesha Asad is from Dallas, Texas. Her work has been included in the 2020 Best of the Net Anthology, and her writing appears or is forthcoming in PANK, diode poetry journal, DIAGRAM, Sundog Lit, Cosmonauts Avenue, Zone 3, The Boiler, and elsewhere. Her writing was longlisted for the 2022 Palette Poetry Previously Published Poem Prize and has been recognized by Best of the Net, Creative Writing Ink Journal, and the Robert Bone Memorial Creative Writing Prize. Currently, she is an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her free time, she likes to dream.
Ayesha is the June feature for Inner Moonlight poetry series. RSVP to attend now
I’d never seen a color so painted on.
Blue was a brushstroke freshly slicked,
swirled and scooped
like it had just come out of the freezer.
And I stood, limbs glazed
and trembling. The instructor
didn’t notice, had us all swim races,
uncoiling and pivoting
like a well-oiled machine—
and here the water rose
and broke over my boiling face. Here
I braced myself, gulping palmfuls of chlorine
every time we glided over
that dark filter. Here I screwed my eyes
and emptied my throat
into a gorgeous lacuna—the same space
that swallowed me every night
as I lay suspended in a half-sleep.
Afterward, it became a pattern—we flapped
across the pool, and I settled into my spot
near the edge, fading into familiar interspace—
and one morning, as I bobbed past,
she saw. Tell me the truth, she asked,
do you cheat, and my face,
browned deeper from the sun, stilled
under waves of scrutiny. Already I stood out
with a name taken from my own tongue
but this I couldn’t bear.
I didn’t know how to say it was those filters,
sucking and spitting out pool water,
that kept me near the edge—
that out of their heavy-handed jaws
something stifling might emerge,
that they looked
like the kind of half-broken tunnels
that would draw my breath out
and sever it
into the wisp it had been
before being dreamt into hatching.
We, & our tiny heads and cosmic speech.
Three girls, older than the moment
we began to savor difference,
boxed-in by a story
set always in the swell of hometown
tragedy. I’ve never met a ______
like you. And here, in the glaring light
of a froyo shop, we began to solidify,
hauled like a swimmer above the surface.
The planes of our faces unlabeled,
mouths unspoken for. Outside, the gully
quivered with rain, yet our faces dried,
eroded into a sight ungainly and beautiful.
And desire hollowed our necks
as we fished to be undefined,
to scrape away that feeling
of damp wood rotting,
flesh supplanted with language
other people invented for us. A dialect
we now reshaped, throats spiraling
with luster—and the tumult of release.
Brown girls with a shared roster
of grievance, and here we were,
the lucky ones. Lucky in our speech, our thought,
our body, because our parents dreamt
in a worse land,
or because our body
was unmarred. And on that night,
and perhaps only that night, it was:
Body delimbed & seeping out of its out-
line, and claimants—gone. Girl deflated,
ourself bodied in light, our mouth moving
without function. Brownness an open field.
A light-wrapped darkness. Then, leaping
into the car, dappled with headlight. Windshield
creviced by nightfall—