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Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize


Written by
Aaisha Salman

Aaisha Salman is currently studying South Asian Studies at Columbia. She is a liberal arts graduate from Karachi, Pakistan and her work has appeared in Parentheses Literary Journal, and in the anthology I'll Find My Way, Oxford University Press, 2014.


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Tenants of the Crevice



“who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns”
– Audre Lorde, “A Litany for Survival”


Jugaar (noun): makeshift, stopgap
Inhabiting is work: the way insects make-home inside the wear and tear of walls. I think
somewhere a cavalry in survival keeps digging bitterly into dirt

in sing-song aur raaj karegi khalq-e-khuda

and their voices steep steadily into silence

hum dekhenge hum dekhenge

Hope is not an imposter it is just pirated: a cheap photocopy intent on participating in the
Saying and the dirt-diggers say, of course we know. Do not interrupt this death-bound

Pakram-pakrayi (verb, noun): Catch-and-catching, being-caught and bringing about caughtness

Do you think we live in the mouth of poems: the way a name briefly touches language and then

it’s gone.

Qs can mean ear-cleansing tools

or community. Depends on the ear. On record we remember to be incomplete now you see me,

now did-you-really?

Jugaar (noun): finagle, manage, wangle
It’s more practical: the way we form as smoke / only halves and quarters / making sufficient
room for misreading. I dust off love like an old cloth and then gently draw through residue

which is also adrenaline of the gentle being on-the-runs of love worlds/world loves

It isn’t on film this stuff: you don’t even expect it and empty school grounds suddenly erupt in
young girls of rehearsal belting raag piercing through tradition. I held my camera shakily behind
a jaali so as to collect sound and forgo image. The recording is scrappy desperate and imageless

an ethics of confusion: aaj rang hay! aye maa rang hay ri! There is no time to weep at this
unprecedented gift of femme kalaam announcing colour hailing mother
brief parody: occupation of narrative wearing costume then breaking

Character as teachers singers choirs wivesdaughtersmothers and not-sons of the interruption

Like Sappho Bot finding unintended audience online: Pakistani cisboy singing sappho clueless
in thinking the verses are for him / but making them part of hummed air. I don’t correct him

2015, 2017, 2018: each year a country each year a legalization. Even India. For us there is
makeshift joy

the psychedelics of masti secretively encoded in between around against/in the yawn of/in the
break of/behind the back of writ of the state

No matter. We make-do / make-love in the muffling



Aaisha Salman is the winner of the 2019 Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize (link) for her poem Tenants of the Crevice. Read our blog post for the winner announcement (link).



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