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Sheikha A.







(Founding Plath’s ‘Insomniac’)


All elements around me swim in placidness,

there is hardly a misfit amidst the intermingling

parochial cause of existence; all boxes ticked,

all customs tucked righteously in the soft

cotton duvets of an orderly bed. Disorderly

sheets scramble to stretch, pinch pulled

into woody, sturdy (though half scraped) corners

joint by stalks of an equally tenacious guard.


These protracting tendencies of an eddying night,

everything around and under it in prim stance

of a recruited soldier, without delay, quick reflexes,

the moon adroit in throwing its blinding glare

upon an attempting escapee; ambitious to turn

renegade of the pillow it has rested on far too long,

the sheets of the cogitating bed tossing in earnest

agitation to be thrown off its long serviced premise

for a day on the floor, on new ground, new air.






(for Heather Maecherlein Browne’s weeping skin – sweating grief)


Recently I read of a passing,

what struck me most was the coping –

the griever exfoliating pain off

of their skin through sweating –

she called it weeping. Her skin

wept in nights – flashes

of memories expunged her body.


I remembered how I’d visited

our cemetery, in the day, when the sun

couldn’t have been tougher on us;

its heat flooding like an engine gargling

up and spitting out repressed blackness

like in an anger contest with the heat.


The walk was long and tedious,

harrying like the life lived on edges,

across many graves, pitchers

of water in hands to wash them with,

it was a process, a ritual, nothing

more, nothing less.


The skin weeps,

and I wonder of the graves,

the ritual – the washing, if there are

skins of souls still tied to its stone.


The dead, who lay, I have visited

in pictures, their stories aholt through

the motionless eyes staring straight

into the camera – these that now

lay under a sand I cannot see beyond.


Needless to say, I washed

the sweat off of the graves –

their weeping, if they grieved

for the skins on bodies not yet

claimed upon by an end.


Though they are under, their skins

can’t meet mine. But, I wash

their perspiring stones and ease

in a peace I solace my weeping skin

of a restful kin.




The Visitors


They came in the shadow hours nobody but those who knew

knew and could see, see; they didn’t wear specific apparel

but usually described to be in white, identical to the lights

and floors of his linoleum home, robes that he had donned

from the time he had forgotten to spruce by eclectic wardrobes.

He said they brought hands that sent something through the air

all the way to his ears, of those meant to hear, so the voices

became legibly louder. But they couldn’t fix his arm that had

begun to flag like a bone lost in a mass of jelly, and his feet that

had grown carpet-corns from dragging, like sensations fled

from its muscle cages; everything in his body had emancipated

except for his mind. We’d watch in awe with the way he owned

his motionlessness, like Sinatra would a lamppost in his song,

and silence at his replies he claimed were in tandem with them.

They would sit on a ledge outside his home, in pairs or threes,

telling him where they could take him while we’d nod feebly

swallowing our tongues, and with it our practiced betrayals.

The few short hours of our visits would end where we left him

with his loneliness, a wife who stood as erect and majestic

as his IV drip stand, promises pungent like his palette of pills,

noisy shuffles, and them – the ones we didn’t cumber about

as long as they inhabited the whites he wore leaving our colours

in peace.




Comprehensibly Cloudy


We spoke for the first time in eight years.

Watching her, in distance, being veered

in all the time that I watched her,

one would judge her mentally deficient,

as her eyes moved in the unmoving way

a lucid shard of glacier melted under a detached sun;

there was knowledge of all things breathing

in her sight, though a vacancy beyond traceability

swirled, like a storm thrust into the body of a breeze

and her hands showed she had never been

bothered with tediousness before; her daughter’s

eyes were like the breeze, probing into the miasmic

incoherence when she spoke to her but first calling out

her name like a prefix lasting a good stretch

of seconds till her pupils dilated with warmth.

My assumptions of her only took me so far

as her smile that welcomed everybody, 

like a pigeon betwixt a foggy mass of familiarity;

but the day she grabbed my hand, pointing me

the new face in a crowd she’d been watching

(back) for all these years, I became known to

my identity, the importance of existing to a departing

memory, of decency of unstaring, allowing the hidden

to stay hidden, of a mind embalming in its own leather

strips of incognizance. Of her promising to remember

me prefixing her sentence with In sha Allah (God willing).   






The moon fell into the ocean the day he came for my wings;

my world was like a rivulet caught in a fountain flurrying

in the same waters that the moon bore in its hollowed bosom,

from drowning many shores and enlivening depreciated horizons

while all I ever did was watch from my symbolic dwelling,

the ceilings didn’t arch too far out to any skies or deities

the ones he called to, where my voice submitted subserviently

to the waves, and his wanting. ‘Twould be the moment when

time held no parity with my feathers coming alive under

a petting breeze on the tunes of which his empty seat would swing

out to a wild ocean. He rarely ever visited but as the sun

of his grandiose love became draped over by dark clouds

of melancholic soliloquies, he’d come to watch my grey body

for pageantry demanding a promise that could travel to the moon.

Stark eyed, I’d goot in a melodious way a bird caught in a net would,

imitating the songbird’s chirp, peacock’s strut, or the flamingo’s posture

just so his heart would unbreak each night he swam to my abode.

But the sun would rise once again, swathing his laments in a heat

of fury sending him back to his broken reality until that one night

when he came for my wings, as relic, he said, as amour, for surviving

his dreams that lay strewn like a mirror of scattered melodies

across my bloodless guilelessness.




Sheikha A., from Pakistan and U.A.E., is the author of the poetry collection Spaced [Hammer and Anvil Books, 2013]. Her work has appeared in over 40 publications and several anthologies.  She harbours an (over) ambition to someday hold the world hostage, in trance, by her (creative!) words. To list a few places, her work has been published in DM, Red Fez, Carcinogenic Poetry, Shot Glass Journal, Pyrokinection, A New Ulster, Knot Magazine, and upcoming in Poetry Pacific and The Stray Branch. She edits poetry for eFiction India. 



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