Best not to use this video, it contains the word cancer which can be triggering for some.
Cancer triggers another triggers another. That is how half my mother’s
family died. The other half only half-dead.
Half-dead in that their bodies are limp,
though they power through it. My father used to wake up at midnight
to fumigate restaurants. That is how he paid for our language.
My mother, though not at midnight, works every hour, even more now
that she is weaker. She says it makes her forget her body & the fact that half
of her family is dead. Her body is the fact that half of her
body is dead, though I do not tell her that.
How are insects and bodies related? I know only that when I talk about the body,
I have to talk about the bug. And I can’t talk about those without talking
about my father.
Father’s half family died of diabetes. When I talk about body, I have to talk
about sweetness, the curse of it. Sweet is what we call something that wants
to kill us. An insect, even if in our body (or home), is welcomed. After all,
the insect is what has put the sweet on our table for so long.
An insect, I suspect, though not much. I kill it in the bathroom, quietly,
strategically so no one knows. Sometimes, I let it go.
My father likes to stretch his body before (and during) sleep. Mother dances
around the house all day with a fervor so elegant, so eternal, I sometimes doubt
she forgets we live on rented land, time. I sometimes forget how their bodies are
succumbing, both of them swaying together, though separately, with awkward
delight: mother divorcing fat from good meat, father massaging his scalp with coconut
oil—both their arms satiated with hunger.
Javeria Hasnain is a poet from Karachi, Pakistan. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Aleph Review, Lumiere Review, Anatolios magazine, and elsewhere.