At night, I watch the moon.
Crescent, a thin sliver of light,
and the sky, festooned by its glaze.
At night, I pray
with a scarf of pale pink,
speckled with gemstones. Little moons.
It stills like a stream, an unbroken line.
When the moon split, do you think anyone
looked up in horror, shielded
their eyes? Two halves, like dragon fruit
sliced. Black sky speckled with seeds
of white. History unfolded, torn apart
in a single night.
How do I love what I fear? My people,
filtering in through the window,
streams of light seeping into my bedsheets.
everyone prays together. The women
in coral lipstick, the men
in yellow and turquoise turbans. Seas of
bangled color. Parties brimming
with baklava, kulfi, Gulab jamun.
Dates in sachets, doused
with chocolate and sprinkled
Love, trembling in the air.
I’ve lived here for centuries. Sediment piles up,
glitters against the grays and blues and greens,
then turns foul, regurgitating spume.
Sunlight swallows, nips at golden domes
and green minarets. The color isn’t important –
until it’s washed away.
Fragments of wind hearken,
ready to erode. But there’s nothing left,
and the cities grow gray.
The sediment washes away.
The moon sews herself back up and weeps, looks at
the destruction below. Her face craters – lacuna of
void, of chasmic sorrow. Basaltic plain
White marble outstrips the colored paint. Unsalted statue,
plain glaze over nothing.
The moon leans closer,
and a chime throbs the hollowed statue.
Indistinct music. A holy recitation underwater.
Labbaik allahumma labbaik.
O people, have you heard?
Have you heard the songs
that filter the air, the seawater
that churns into lungs?
Have you heard the cries
of those trampled under the weight
of human song?
We bury our dead in white. White,
like a stretched canvas, or a spilled pearl.
White, like the moon. White,
like how we judge our hearts.
When I die, who will bury me? Whose hands
will I belong to?
Here, the moon again. It glitters and stills; it whispers and ravages. Our cheeks press against its canvas, wishing to be pulled in. The river washes in, washes out. What remains of us
is wrapped in sand, coruscating from the sidelines, waiting to be sheltered, breathed in, bequeathed, bloomed.
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, Kissing Dynamite, DREGINALD, and elsewhere. She has been recognized by Best of the Net, Creative Writing Ink Journal, and the Robert Bone Memorial Creative Writing Prize. Currently, she studies Literature and Biology at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her free time, she likes to dream.