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in the dry Junes of Karachi I don a white cotton shalwar
kameez (a moonlighter), so become my afternoon &
my night & douse this blackness in viscous castor oil which
mama’ll vigorously knead—the stickiness against a white
skull with fingers made stiff from years of rheumatoid arthritis.
Is this the inexplicable south asian love? because in the
West I only want the scent of mamas janemaaz ka dupatta &
I’m sorry for frantically clinging to Pakistan wherever i
go making it hard for your homes to welcome me & for you
foreign lovers to embrace me & I’m sorry that I can’t
help friending you on Facebook just to show how great my
life’s gotten since high school & not just the published
poems & the articles & the acting but the little things. like when
Asiya’ll welcome my return, thousand lines criss-crossing
tanned skin & I’m 11 years old again. how is it that people who’ve
had husbands murdered by village mobs can find happiness
in life whereas I, who’ve lived a near painless life cannot? but at least
my evenings are marked with daddy’s Jimmy Choo’s cologne
and brylcreem which you smell before seeing him & everyone knows
that I’ll do anything to impress my dad like even burning myself
out to the point of depression, so that’s why Allah beckons me to the
prayer mat & I’m sorry for inconveniencing you white peeps but
just know, not all Muslims are terrorists & do you even really know Islam
and the great solace it gives us. I know my mom would want me to
pray. this is the fifth time she’s pinged me—empty nest syndrome has hit
hard but darling, any second now you’ll get a semblance of home,
so don’t hurt yourself just yet.



Neha Maqsood is a Pakistani journalist whose writing on race, religion, and global feminism has been published in Metro UK, Express Tribune, Foreign Policy, Women Under Siege, and other places. Her poetry, too, has been featured or is forthcoming in over twenty literary journals and magazines, including Gutter Magazine, Marble Poetry, Abridged, and more. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Black Bough Readers Award for Poetry. Her poetry chapbook, Vulnerability, is scheduled for publication by Hellebore Press in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @maqsood_neha.
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20 May 2024

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