The Girl Grew

The house is too heavy for floating.

Dad uses the spare duvet to sleep on the coach,
bedroom-less, tied down to the sofa.

Two cups broken in the sink,
a glass cup that shatters in the embrace
of a too-small mug.

Drunk Ahmed keeps throwing his empty bottles
out of his window three floors above.

Then he stumbles down the stairs
and chases the children screaming his name.

Suhaib falls out of the window.
He isn’t afraid of bones breaking,
has faith he’ll be kept together.

Ahmed tells the children he’ll eat
some of them for breakfast, some for dinner.

Today’s game for the children is guessing
how many bottles of alcohol he has emptied.

He looks you up and down,
licks his lips wanting to eat you,
until you fantasize about growing teeth out of your fingers
and draining his face of blood.

Touch is touch, but fist is not touch, says aunty.
Fist is one punch away from death.

Choke is not touch, says aunty.
Is not love, is not love, is not.

Imitate suhaib and take one step out of the window.
Race Ahmed’s empty bottle on its way down.

Mama is dying her fingertips orange in the kitchen,
turning into the sunset nobody opens their curtains for.

She can’t save you.

(published in Wasafiri)


the ache takes its time

and where are you now, love?

nobody knows how to touch me. or where to look for me. my disappearance is so long, so heavy. disappearing as survival, as a test to see who i can come back to, to see who will wait.

there was a spider that i refused to step on. i woke up and it was hovering over my head in the middle of the night. it was coming for my eyes.

mother says, ‘you’re tired because you don’t eat.’ i’m trying mother, to keep the death away from me, to keep it from the house. there are children upstairs. they’re trying to sleep.

what happened?

imbalance in the brain. chemical mix-up. overheating. crossed wires. flame. water in the cables. bad signal.

the friendships, they died. i ruined it all with my own hands.

shake me until all badness leaves. until you’re left with something you can live with.

coming back from sadness. when does it happen and how much have i lost? it’s harder than i imagined.

‘the missing people will do if you decide to leave is heavier than the sadness you carry everyday.’

your body rising from the bathwater, head escaping the water-filled sink, a step back on the train platform, all in slow-motion.

what is it that you want?

defence against my own body, against my mind. something or someone to get inside and scrape it out. what is violent giving in and turning soft. to stay breathing. rocks in the belly having their last dance, finding home elsewhere.