All Along, I Laid, Halved
The lake was (all along) a reservoir.
My third grade trip was to a dam.
All along, I wore nothing but hand me down sweaters.
I grow at the mercy of my mother.
Everytime. I height. At the mercy. Of someone. Else.
When I put my forehead on the floor fives times a day.
It will be game over.
My third grade self played squash.
My third grade self could have continued playing squash.
A child is an investment to a future.
Because now. 26. Fat. Drenched dreaming. Of figure skating.
I can’t even sit straight. I look out of windows.
Do you know what a country smells like?
Not home. Never home. (All along) Not me.
Smells like teen spirit.
Smells like sweat moustache.
Smells like mercy lighting up a dam.
Every sleep I was consumed by a bonfire. No music. No dance.
I don’t hate it here.
I don’t hate it anywhere.
But it’s hard hearing my mother cry on the toilet.
It’s hard hearing the winter knock up New York.
It’s hard breathing in smog and realizing (all along) it was Lahore.
All along, it was just me.
But did I even know?
In third grade, I ate a whole box of chalk.
In third grade, I witnessed a freed pigeon return to where it was homed.
In third grade, they found me. Without proof. At the squash court. Hustled.
I only know ill.
I only know mercy.
I spend my day shifting light bulbs to create company with my shadow.
I spend my day resting halved in warmth and shade.
I know what it will take to not burn me.
But I do not step out of the house.
And the house never steps out of me.
Copyright © 2021 by Ayesha Raees. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.