After Imtiaz Dharker
First published in The Aleph Review Vol. 2 (2018)
RIU-7486 is no ordinary rickshaw.
At its heart, is a magnet.
A black hole that pulls motorcycles out of orbit,
sucks them in and rips them apart,
spoke by metal spoke,
each cog, screw, drop of petrol, pipe, all industrial efficiency
reduced to stardust.
Or so I believe.
Is death less scary if you are prepared for it,
If you know when it will happen.
It terrifies me
and I shrink so small
in the back right corner
accidents will fly by.
Raziq, the rickshaw driver, appears creaseless
in the sideview mirror.
His composure is a halo
that lights up the insides
of our ride.
Some revelation is at hand. Of what, I’m unsure,
and I have never been more uncomfortable.
Raziq’s elbow shifts, his wrist slides.
We’ve skipped three lanes and several of my heartbeats.
The red signal melts into savage beeps.
Disorder dances across the road at Raziq’s whim.
This might still be a black hole.
Somewhere between Saddar and Kutchery,
I see a car side us.
The left wheel catches air,
the right burns into our destinies.
We are tipping over.
Slowly, I get up, kneel, and push the rickshaw frame back with both hands.
In the sideview, I catch Raziq’s eyes.
He laughs and says,
“You’re crazy. You will kill us.”
Waqas Naeem is the director of the South Asian literary collective Desi Writers’ Lounge (DWL). His poems have appeared in East Lit, Papercuts, Subprimal and Jaggery.