The following poem was first published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 5 (2021).
And that’s where I think the end of the world really begins,
not with a cyborg breaking down walls between
us and the titans (my friends call them skyscrapers)
but in a restaurant bathroom where
the boy bussing down mirrors doesn’t
make enough money to buy the food he serves; I know you might ask
why is this important when the world is already burning? And I will
laugh and maybe tell you a bit about filicide and enzymes that
reverse aging but ultimately I see public bathrooms,
the time someone burst the blood vessels of my own nose in one
with a tight fist and red dripped into the basin instead of our unrefined
reservoir water—did they tell you they’re building a dam?
It’s hard not to know when the hands of every news channel flip through my mind’s
papers after work, absent fathers sipping coffee, only
interjecting to say, ‘this headline’s a little garish’.
Vicious babymamas pick up plates to look their boyfriends in
the eye, the man’s curtains part to let in blinding light when
she asks him ‘what are we?’ till silence runs out of everyone’s
noses and there’s no tissue in the house to wipe
it off chins, and that’s what I’m talking about
when I ask people if they have a moment to talk about
I was at a hotel once and saw a lady piling oranges into
a measly brown purse and I would’ve done the same
if I wasn’t always so afraid; there was a mother in the
back wearing magazine covers on her face while her
son beat up pool water, left arm up, right arm down,
always a crash. I could hear him crying into
If time’s arrow always moves forward
if there is life above and below the ground,
if our pockets are always empty,
and if the universe constantly spares people who
stitch hunted animals onto Persian rugs
why do we choose to stay the same?
Noorjehan Asim graduated from Bryn Mawr College, USA, majoring in creative writing and film and media studies. When she’s not being consumed by her crippling fear of house lizards, she enjoys Googling conspiracy theories, curating Spotify playlists and making shortlists of her favourite films. She has won one (1!) literary prize and is generally terrified by the idea of publishing. Noorjehan is based in Lahore.*
*Author bios for archival pieces are accurate as of the time of publishing.
Zahrah Ehsan is an artist, painter and filmmaker from Pakistan, currently based in Finland. In 2020, she completed her MA in visual cultures, curating and contemporary arts from Aalto University, followed by her participation at AMPI's program. Ehsan's practice is driven by storytelling, including scavenged materials from industry, popular culture, and utility incorporated into her visual works. She likes to write, direct and act in stories that are mostly a critique on the notions of gender, identity, mental health and everyday labour.