Ayesha Asad

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
              and splintered,

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—