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Digress, Memory (1)

Fatima Ijaz

Editor's Note: Earlier this year Fatima sent me a collection of her poems that pertained to memory, aptly titled ‘Memory Book’, after I announced my theme for this year's website curations. This particular prose poem stood out immediately. I too have spent over a year staring at the moon almost every night (and day whenever it was visible during those hours); Satie's melodies have incidentally kept me company as well. The poem's arrival in my inbox was serendipitous and thus wraps up this fortnight's curation.

— Hassan Tahir Latif

When and if I digress, and capture the moon in the eye of my palm, I’d like you

to be the one who interprets this madness. I’d like you to see it as it is,

in the readiness of the crashing waves, the steady stare of the blue and lamenting

night. Am I tired of the repetition of the sworn figures of my mind? Or do I

digress just to simply glimpse them once again. I’d like to be able to tell but it’s

almost impossible when the moon is dancing to its own self-same tune. I fancy

it is that one by Erik Satie, a one-syllable feat, which doesn’t take anything at

all, but only stubbornly gives like the sliver of light and wax, the candle drops.

Indeed, a transfixed doll. Does the blue burn as it slides down the cheek?

I ask the mirror of many minds, the question and it answers like a mood queen.

A silver coin keeps it away from me, as I squint my eye to see. I recall now in

the urgency of water as it spills, the way I used to read a book. Without a care

in the world. Without a dream. And yet it used to follow me for days like a

child following his mother. And what of the way I used to look whilst I read?

The mirror laughs in her sleep. The semi-stare of an unknown as he used to

reach out to me. The book was merciless and mean. Someone said this over the

years, in another incident I recall as I browse through relevant memories. The

answer was perhaps written by hand on a silver and rude mirror: books are

choices. And the innuendo: your choices. Was I misspelt? Did my makings

offer the way to my madness? The questions burn the tongue of the mirror; it

leaps out in flames. The end is the beginning is the end. A fallacious loop. I’m

caught. How was one to know such things before – before they happened?

And what does the casual picking up of a book have to do with any of it?

From the #notesonaqurantine series by Hassan Tahir Latif (2020)

I sometimes find myself in your garden. The lamps are burning bright; it is a

night like no other. Your sister moves in the rhythm of the rain and asks me to

read your cards. I spread out the lunacy and hear the whisper of the trees. I

answer whatever comes to my mind. The moon’s significant halo crosses its Ts

over your eyebrow. I am startled by this vision. I spell out the cross of magnolia

and swearing to the old teachings, warn her of the three swords. But it’s a

warning to me, isn’t it? The cards are ruthless. They no longer care for her. To

me, they seem to be incessantly drawn. It is a doomed attraction. I return to my

books, and the reasons why I read them were so careless and transient. Like

picking up cards for a reason that one may never understand. You say, ‘except

that it struck me, as something I had to do.’ The surreal is dangerous, they say.

And yet, the appeal of its lingering is marvelous.

So has it all happened for no reason? The circular dream moves on. The after-

life of the madness indulges in it every other rare tide. The moon becomes a

cosmic mirror on such nights, and I can see beyond time and space again.


Fatima Ijaz teaches English composition and speech communication at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, and is a contributing editor at a literary publication, Pandemonium Journal. She graduated in English from Hartwick College, NY, and York University, Toronto, and holds an MA in English linguistics from Eastern Michigan University. She won first prize at the McLaughlin Poetry Contest in Toronto in 2007. Fatima has participated in poetry and art collaborations which were featured at Music Mela 2019, Art Baithak 2019 and Taseer Art Gallery in 2020. Her poetry and prose has been published in New Asian Writing, Kitaab, Rigorous, Zau, Praxis Magazine, The Write Launch, Red Fez, Whirlwind Magazine, Naya Daur and The Aleph Review amongst others. She is currently collaborating with fashion designer Sadaf Malaterre for an art project entitled ‘Whimsical’.


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