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Volume 7

Outside: Looking In - January 2011


Asmara Malik

Written by
Asmara Malik

Asmara Malik can usually be found lurking at http://elmara.deviantart.com [link], where she has, to-date, been awarded six Daily Deviations in Literature. She was one of the eight winners of the LUMS Young Writers Workshop & Short Story Contest 2013. She was short-listed for the Matthew Rocca Poetry Award by Verandah, an Australian journal of art, design and literature. Her work has appeared in Karachi: Our Stories in Our Words (OUP, Pakistan), Papercuts, Poets & Artists, Sparkbright, Read This Magazine and Breadcrumb Scabs, among others.


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Churayl, Churayl


Yellow-cab man, hello, hello for braking so hard
right before my rain-damp feet, for this splatter of mud

on my white shalwaar. The fare to Lahore is just
beyond my means, humor me. You nod, I get

in. The engine is a tuberculous cough, cancer-black
ignition fumes belch from below the hood, you pump

the accelerator. Islamabad shudders, its malcontent trees
wave goodbye to me. I roll down the window, spit the last

of a ‘Pindi paan out on Murree Road – red-red Rorschach
stain, fanning out a farewell to these gun-metal

streets. Slow, slow, Yellow-cab-man, hit Suri’s Road
speeding, hit it so hard my nose bleeds, my ears shriek, rattle

past the poison-mirror-green sheen of rice paddies. Turn up
your Naseebo Lal, your Atif Aslam, let their voices roll

out. Silently, karaoke-scream to their strutting melodies;
such slatternly songs are sung in Punjab, count down

the heartbeats it takes for the Indus to fall swooning
into the Arabian Sea’s arms. Out-race them – drive

beyond morality, mortality. Yellow-cab-man, forget
the streets of your Chakwal, it is futile to stop beneath

this apartment window, to stand beneath sodium-yellow
evening lights, watching: your woman

chameleoning, a silken silhouette upon
white chiffon curtains billowing in this

almost-ishaa breeze. Tell me, does she know
of your vigil? The azaans here are melodic, they sing

of salvation if only you’ll come, if only you’ll come to
worship. More and more, you catch my eye in your rear-view

mirror, hunted gaze glancing off mine. I touch
the back of your neck, press my lips to the sweet hollow

between your skull and your spine. I would tell you
not to fear me but my tongue is furred with the dust

of this road. This sickle moon is a monstrous leer, lunatic
witness to the death of myths. Ranjha’s corpse

swings in the wind, these rational crows have plucked out
Heer’s eyes. Such neon-lit urban nights– they are not

my friends. Here, leave me here, if only you’ll not look at
my feet, not cry pichal pairee with such tired resignation

in your eyes. Let us part as companions of the plains, part
as chance-met travelers on this Road that was here long

before Suri dreamt of it, floating, a sightless embryo growing
as a seed within his red-glow amniotic world. Here, stop

your cab, here. This abandoned bus-stand where
the knell of passing cow-bells will lull me to sleep,

my dreams will be ink seeping into the cracked asphalt,
my feet, growing roots into this road.



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