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Small Fry

by Ayesha Raees

No one told me what to do. But here I am. A bolt in the system. Governed by
WhatsApp. Rattled by New York. I have a basement view of people’s feet. A full
time burn out. Architecture blocking sunlight. Where do we go when we die?
Around the corner of the street, I sobbed over the phone to my mother who
sobbed at me. I have emptied her house. I have dusted her life. Created mud. Once
there was a large green pasture. Neverending blue sky. I did not think of death or
phantoms. No ghost sat down next to me. I ate my dinner with ease. Here I got
elbowed by boys. Here I missioned myself to set station to their gaze. My mother says
despite our funny exteriors, our organs are the same. Same sized heart. Same full
lungs. Same burning brains. It’s hard to argue. Harder to convince. My friends
pass away. Or leave to live their lives. What is the difference between dying and
never seeing someone again? I punished God. God forgot me. I became with too
much body. I became several bodies at once. I got scared. I repelled the cocoon.
I did not transform. In my basement, piles and piles of textile. Papers. Hair fall. I
waited for dawn by waking up in the middle of every twilight.

Much of the poetry I wrote in 2019 is in reflection of my soulmate’s and best friend’s suicide. "Small Fry" is one of them. The poem embraces my anxiety for death and the afterlife while putting into question the everyday intimacies of small life, where the ordinary everyday has now lost its beauty, and is replaced, instead, by a past drenched in nostalgic simplicity. I was in my basement office at my dead-end IT job when I received the phone call. In the months that followed, I could not do much but put on appropriate faces to keep on living. Like the questions in this poem, I escaped between the layers of my reality towards different scenes where my guilt, anger, or console could hold space. The poem ends in anticipation where twilight can either promise a new day or a long night, sentencing the identity of a "small fry" to function on chance and not choice.

Ayesha Raees identifies herself as a hybrid creating hybrid poetry through hybrid forms. She was a 2018-2019 Margins Fellow at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Her work has appeared in The Margins, Wilderness, Cherry Tree, Hobart, and elsewhere. Shortlisted for the Judith Akbar Poetry Prize, she was also a recent resident at the Millay Colony for the Arts. Raees is a graduate of Bennington College, a current 2019 Brooklyn Poet’s Fellow, and serves as an assistant poetry editor at AAWW’s The Margins. She is from Lahore, Pakistan, and currently lives in New York City.