December Offerings/Not Karachi

MANAL AHMED
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ILLUSTRATIONS BY CARLA PELOSOFF

Christmas lights hung on

the icy lobes of trees,

and the frosted skin of a darkened river

beneath me.

 

Nighttime mosquito fest by the Charles,

then the burning red halo on each shin as keepsake.

Sheet after sheet of blue rain.

And the sudden gray geometry of a building I could never name —

 

Still, I’ll choose to stay. 

Pandemic Car Crash/Pictures Of Us

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The night you sent me a broken
voice message, told me you crashed your car
into a white Corolla at the Shujat crossing
and woke up someplace else, small and afraid,—
I looked at pictures of us for hours.
It was 3 AM and darkness was a quilt so heavy,
morning seemed impossible.
When light came, finally, I sent you a box of doughnuts.
You sent back a picture of the lemon-meringue one,
yellow curd spilled everywhere, sunlight suspended —
‘yum favourite flavor!!!’

I couldn't stop looking at those three exclamation marks,
thin pixel trees glowing blue on my phone screen —
their perfect, rounded endings
Stubborn proof of your small, sweet life.

Hair

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It’s through the window that the neighbors’ violin

leaks in, Hallelujah on a Sunday.

It’s through the window that I watch her

 cut his hair, and through the window 

that I watch the hair

float through the steps of

the fire escape and fall 

to the ground, black 

smoke curling into a green sea.

 

She laughs as she snips 

and this glass skin

between us is 

useless, so thin

I can hear everything, 

clear as shard.

It’s through the window that the light comes in, 

then doesn’t —

 

At night’s twelfth hour,

I watch myself in the mirror, scissors in hand,

black snow descending slowly into the sink,

the day’s long photographs finally 

snipped off my head.

Manal Ahmed is a writer from Karachi, Pakistan. She currently lives in Boston.