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this is how i want to ride it

Ilona Yusuf

The poem first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 2 (2018).


like rex manuel

dapper short

shining deeply dark

in a red cap and checked scarf

drummer and pianist

from 30s madras

who danced

bandy legged

as he played

who taught me

to strike chords

with force and joy

sans looking


this is how

I want to ride it


focused steady

fingers flicking switches

tight on turns

against gears

feet rocking pedals

unity control motion

feeling it vibrate

through me—

this engine—


from the sides of my eyes

the landscape

curving with the road

or following straight

for mile on mile

this is how

I want to ride it


slick quick

eyeballing it

knowing it will stick

I’ve got it right

I’ve struck the apple at its heart.

Portrait of Ilona Yusuf by Samina Ali Akhtar


Portrait of Ilona Yusuf by Samina Ali Akhtar. The artist, a close friend of the poet’s, holds a master’s in fine arts from the Punjab University. She has worked there and at the National College of Arts, Lahore, as a lecturer. For the most part, her richly layered mixed media paintings recreate tableaux depicting the colourful, opulent life of the Mughal Empire.


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