POETRY – Home through Frosted Lips

By Syed Riza Qadri

But, of course, Kashmir always wakes up as its own self every morning.

I’m in class but I steal two seconds to smuggle a look out the window. I caper through groaning wintery clouds, through the creaks of frosted bones. I blow my breath over the Chinar and marvel at the ripple of its copper leaves. Ever so plenty, ever so beautiful. I smile at red noses and hands rubbed together. I smile at the sweaters, the mufflers, the boots, and the crunch of gravel beneath them. I travel a thousand miles, yet it is always away. The tree with arms of leafless branches that it holds aloft with pride.

It seems to break down, though, before the One. And the arms are up in remembrance.The birds chirp to its murmurs of prayers as it heaves a sigh of cold gusts, and there appear shards of ice, swords of snow, hugging its very form. The tree is a thing of misery and majesty. It is in pain and it is so far away.

But, of course, it will be here tomorrow. And I’ll be, too.

(I came back today, but it was through a different path that I never chose. I saw upturned firepots and admonishing mothers, and then I saw scraps of papers being adorned with colour. Crisp leaves spiralled off the dusky ground to greet me, to meet me. ‘As-salāmu ʿalaykum.’ ‘Wa ʿalaykumu s-salām!” By the time I reached I had wings of dead leaves and a lost heart.

The tree was not a tree anymore. It was nothing. As though it had never prayed, never sighed, never lived. Never bled.)

The STORM-BLAST came, and he Was tyrannous and strong*

By Aqsa Ahmed.

There is an albatross


About my person.

Sometimes he flies south,

But returns erelong.

I am afraid he never leaves.

I did shoot at him once,

Regained my hold of the helm

And sailed out.

But guilt crept back and hung around my neck until he healed strong.        

I kneel in the dawn,

Just as sunlight begins to trail on my floor and    

beseech freedom.

“Release me from this trammel,

let me swim away merciful albatross.”

                                                                                But he hovers about my person.

“Oh, strange soul”, says he

“My wandering marinere.

I am tyrannous and strong,

You are haggard


and thin.”

                                                                        “And I am sorry my little one –

                                                                 But you do not yet know how to swim.”

*Please note: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner L.41-42 (all lines it italics hereafter reference this text)

You can read more of Aqsa’s poems published on I RISE here.

Featured image credits: “storm waves by Kristian Leov.

Regretfully Dad-Abu.

Regretfully Grandad,

I couldn’t attend your funeral

I wasn’t sad enough.

Not that I was short of love

Or you never let me feel,

I just wasn’t yours grandad- you were never a part of the deal.

Regretfully grandad I forgot you,

Shunned away from the responsibility of being like

You. Of being with you- because my life could never mix with yours.


There’s no room to spare-

There was never any conflict- I just wasn’t there

In that foreign terrain I’ve been made to call home


And you speak Punjabi Granddad.

I can’t and I don’t.


Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is the Creative Writing Editor for I RISE Magazine. 

An Ode to Robina


Robina was a 70s dream,

Who lived for hot buttered toast and

Michael Jackson LPs.

Her first car was crashed by her dad when she was just eighteen

And she believed powerfully in her own daydreams.


Robina was a free-thinker, a dreamcatcher,

A go getter. She walked around her neighbourhood

With a bucket of toy soldiers in one hand and a pic ‘n’ mix in the other

And she adored her father and mother.

Whom she cared for like no other.


Robina was an amorous Walter Mitty,

Who dreamt of Darcy and Gilbert Blythe,

And of her place in their classic lives,

Roaming moors and mansions alike

As queen of the castle and as wife.


Robina was a smart arse

Guaranteed top of the class

Polite in every conversation

Ready and willing for confrontation.


Robina was a killer queen,

Dynamite with a laser beam

But now she’s got five mouths to feed-


So she gave me all those books to read.


Aqsa Ahmed is the Creative Writing Editor for I RISE Magazine.

Featured image credits.

The Good In Me

The good in me is so breathtaking
The good in me is so mesmerizing
When I started to see the good in me and the value of my worth
I found it hard to stay around
People who didn’t
The good in me is sharp
Like a sword
Like an arrow it pierces
Every negative force that
Does not see the good in me
The good in me is so great
The throne of greatness
When somebody says they
Cannot see the good in me
I hug them with pleasure and
I say,”may the good Lord restore
Your sight for I see
you have lost it”

I cannot wish to be somebody else
To wish you are somebody else is
To waste the person you are
I am happy to be me
The good in me is powerful
I may not be perfect but
I am loving
I am honest and happy
I am what I am because of
The good in me.
I can breath and yes I am living
I am not dead like a stone
I can see the good in me
And it shines like the sun
Very bright and radiantly

The good in me shines so much
That it can give light in darkness
Can you see the good in me?
Yes or No
If yes I am grateful and if no
It is still a fact
The good in me is powerful
The good in me gives me
Wings to fly.
I fly high like an eagle in the skies
Above my enemies and challenges
I fly high above my problems
The good in me gives me courage
It reminds me everyday
That I am a victor not a victim
Blessed and not cursed
That I was born for
A purpose not by mistake

The good in me reminds me that
I can do anything
That I am unstoppable
That I am a winner
That I am victorious
Even if I stand in Africa
Somebody in Europe can see
The good in me
The power of the good in me
Can cause an earthquake
The power of the good in me
Can cool a volcanic eruption

The good in me is a warrior
It chases away my fears
It defends me against those
That critisise me
The good in me gives me confidence
I never feel insecure because
Of the power of the good in me
The good in me chases way
My fears and insecurities
Like a dog chases away a thief
The good in me is my advocate
My commissioner of oaths
The good in me reminds my enemies
That their negative opinion
Towards me is completely
Null and void
The good in me is valid
Do you see the good in me?

©Nancy Kili 2016
All Rights Reserved.

Nancy Kili is a Ugandan poet and Lawyer based in Kampala. She performs poetry performances in Uganda under the Ministry of Education and Burundi. Her poetry book is called “Failure is a wizard” with a version in French called “L’echec est un socier”.

Image credits can be found here.

The Break-Up

I have come here, to tell you to fuck – right – off.

Those bloody fire escape stairs creak as always as I pull them down –

You’ve probably heard me now.

Water from one of those leaky pipes drips as I climb

And a freezing drop falls onto my scalp.

Why did I love this place once?


The smell of damp flows past me and lingers,

Your door’s locked. That isn’t a problem. We’ve hotwired cars before,

You and I. Snuck into the bourgeois penthouses.

You’ve made this easy really. I still have your key.


I turn the door handle as Mavis from next door smiles at me –

Winks – she thinks I’m getting lucky tonight.

I touch my finger to my nose as she disappears into her cave.


I always snuck into your place to surprise you – somehow though, right now –

I feel at my best – blood pumping furiously and all that.

Like Bette Davis in All About Eve, I’m Margo Channing, with more oomph.


So, I can’t say I’ll take you back, because that’s fucking wack,

And I can’t say I love you more than life. No. I can’t say that.

But I have a lighter in my hand. And I sure did love this place once.


Stock Image

The Art Of Escape

I choose the thickest vein.

I tighten the tourniquet. It bulges delightfully.

Lights flicker as the 9:30 tube races overhead.


I have to wait for it to pass.

The needle pierces flesh, I can feel the blocking of receptors.

I am unnamed. And Manderley comes rushing into my head.


I stop at the gate.

I try to open it, and fail. I try again and fail.

Then I pass through anyway.


The driveway is blood-rhododendrons

And mad housekeepers.

They move but do not touch. They never touch.


I have come to meet the oracle –

To find out where I’m going, why, and who for.



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London

Burning Embers by Linda Langerak


On Recollecting The Dream To My Brother

I could hear the trumpets, the streets full of wails.
We were running, me, you and mum. I don’t know where to,
But my dream switched –
From our panicked escape to the quiet town hall.
We hid behind alabaster pillars.
That’s when I saw them.

My eyes zoomed,
Like a camera,
Out through the windows of the hall.
Way out into the distance. And they stood there – by a mountain I think.
They looked like bears –
Like the Wombles?
It’s weird I know. But it terrified me.
They stood. Looking right at me. And they pointed.

Then it cut. We were thumping on Grandad’s empty house.
And he opened it. He did – I wanted to cry. I tried to hug him.
But he just stood there.
He didn’t say anything. Just turned –
And started towards the basement. We followed.
Then dogs – black dogs started chasing you and me.
We tried to open these endless doors where grandad just stood behind them –

I don’t remember what happened after that.
I just know I was ready to die.
Then it cut.
To that mountain. And those bears.
And a red bus. Full of alabaster skeletons.



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London

Flickr Image

The Next Morning

Our hearts are wild things,

That’s why our ribs are cages.

Tracheal rings

Of cartilage through which breath

Spills on all these pages

Push out words falling as ink,

Like petals give off their fragrance.

These words were meant for clouds,

Precipitating in stages,

Carried on through the ages.

But just in the blink

Of an eyelid that stings

From harsh notes heard,

Words can be spared if not misheard

When blurted out in a fit of anger.

You know how powerful rage is

But just like a sage is

Calm, the heart will long for its balm

Which soothes even the most rocky of waves.

The most in danger it saves.

And when your eye opens again

It will lift all that was weighing it down,

Releasing that permanent frown

And with it the pain.

Leaving not even a stain

Of the forgotten moment from which you had nothing to gain.

But that ache.


That ache.


Nothing is worth feeling your insides break,

Clawed at with a rake,

Made of your own making.

The heart should stop for its own sake

Turn the dangerous sea into a tranquil lake

And when you wake the cage will be intact

Still there in fact

Thinking that what you lacked was not patience, no you have too much

You were simply out of touch with reality.

But you don’t have the capacity

Your cage won’t be enough

To keep you from being the tough one you think you need to be.

You say all their hearts are depending on me.

Theirs is a paper plane proven to always reach the ground

Or stoop even lower

You don’t hear their hissing like the tunes of a Boa

Constricting my neck so the air comes out slower

Till I just




Now you no longer seethe

And the ache is gone, you wonder how.

You still have your cage


But what good is your heart to you now.



Misbah Shafique is a third year medical student currently intercalating in Nutrition at King’s College, London

Featured Image by Lenore Senior





said it was a lake

that formed into a tear –

drop when the White Giant saw

the Fairy Queen, bathing in Ansoo

with the Prince. I found it romantic. I find this

romantic too, hiking in the moonlight, hands grasped

tight, blood dripping down my leg- Grazed by the crops I

helped my mother plant. Running through corn, our hometown

disappears from view. I see our reflections in Ansoo. I am

the fairy, you are my prince. They are the giants. They are

jealous of our ecstasy. Breaths quicken and our hair is matted

by the rain. It is the start of monsoon. This memory will last in

my mind forever. How we were in love. How we ran away,

and how I looked back, wet, tired and breathless

And saw my honour, my izzat, reflected

in tear drops from your



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London

Image: Serpentrouge.co

A Letter

I’m not there. But my dad tells me.

In the grey, she crouches, sixty five years old, huddles about the open flame from the fire,

Lit, by the dung she collected grazing buffalos.

Atta* and massaleh* float in the air and never seem to land.

Rotis* twirl on the tuvvah* – it is midsummer.

Roosters roam the clay courtyard as cousins pop peas.

One rolls off of Hina’s shalwarkameez*.

Bibi looks at the only greenery in her house.

Jamal walks through the heavy metal door I could never open as a child.

He gives Bibi* a letter.

She tears it open, then tears, run through every pleat of her face.

“Ammi, kya kehteh heh?” (Mum, what does it say?)

She walks, out, of the grey,

Out, past the roosters,

Past the peas and the buffalos,

Past the bolted doors,

And into the breeze.

She lifts herself to the wind and thanks God with this treasure in her hands.

I can see the words now.

My dad’s, to her:

“Ammi*, I’m here and I’m okay.”


Atta: flour

Massaleh: spices

Dupatta: scarf

Roti: chappati

Tuvvah: pan used to make chappatis

Shalwarkameez: traditional form of south Asian clothing

Bibi: Grandmother

Ammi: Mother



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London

Image: Dolls of India

The Marriott Hotel, Karachi 1984

I am alien

But I speak the language.

I can take you back

To sweltering temperatures and ravishing monsoons.

Back to my mother, grazing buffalos

And the emerald, lily-padded, rain-matted fields.

Close your eyes and imagine the mud huts

Created by ancestors whose hands still tell the story.

But now I stand,

In a lobby,

Of this – gold hotel.

And open the door for a stream of colourless faces.



Aqsa Shaheen Ahmed is a third year English student at King’s College, London