Captivity

To imprison my migraine, my father wraps
a chunri dupatta, black with mehndi-green geometry round
the circumference of my head. I imagine a sickly
Punjabi actress somersault between a string of amaltas with dizzying
accuracy to woo her could-be who resides off-screen.
You must not let the headache escape to your heart.

Every inch of my body dissolves except
the strands of my hair, pulsating
his fingertips pressing my temples as if pulping
the solidified mass of a mango, pushing pain
into submission. I watch through kaleidoscopic lines zigzagging
into a shimmery crescent swaying with the movement
of my eyes. Half-moon face dips in and out
as he recites a dua, The Painkiller, The Marham Patti,
The Nothing-But-God-Can-Destroy-You-Now:
I seek refuge with Allah from this affliction
seven times and blows on my forehead, I catch
a whiff of chai, salty; a sea-wandering prayer latching
itself to an earth-bound body.

Confined to bed, bandaging a heartache,
I want to lose limbs, shove the one-pound wound, an open jail
into my father’s palm. The magic words do not work, Ba.
The Punjabi actress dances to herself for 2 hours 15 minutes.

Aisha Hamid is a poet and writer from Lahore, Pakistan. She is an incoming MFA student at Northwestern University. She was shortlisted by the Zeenat Haroon Rashid Writing Prize for Women, 2019, and received an honorable mention by The Berlin Writing Prize 2019. She is a Poetry Reader at The Adroit Journal, a fellow at Qalambaaz 2023, Pakistan’s first screenwriting lab, an alum of the South Asian Write Beyond Borders mentorship program, 2021, and the LUMS Young Writers’ Workshop’19. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Vallum Magazine, The Aleph Review, Yoda Press, and elsewhere.

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