Sabeeha Khan

Edition XIX

Lampshades - by Sabeeha Khan (photo by Ryan Holloway)Photo credit: Ryan Holloway


By Sabeeha Khan

they ask me how I knew it was true love

when I never touched you like a lover does 

when my smile never touched you like rays of the sun 

after the clouds shift on a cold winter day

why I was so content to let the threads 

stringing us together stretch and wane

when I knew you’d be straying further than any ball of yarn ever could

when it ends in tragedy, but that comes later
unrequited, but that comes later. 

I tell them when I can, each time a bit more 
how sitting next to you was like a breath of fresh air

how my dying mind at fourteen felt revived 
like a parasite 

all because of the energy you used to emanate 

how falling in love wasn’t falling at all
but more like a sunset

one minute not, the next a burst of colors
and then gone; the sun has set. my love has settled 

and the burst of colors has a steady, soft glow

burns quietly like a lamp in the middle of the night 
and I sit in the lampshade, quietly contemplating 

I tell them how every smile you gave me was like a sip of water to someone dying of thirst

ice slowly melting into water 

tepid after basking in the sunlight

and a slow realization the way summer softly settles into skin 

that I could live with you forever and somehow be happy 

forsaking religion, foregoing reality 

abandoning my conscience, all other love secondary

the way winter quietly seeps into bone

that I could give my life away for others but I could live for you

my mind giving me relief from the shadows 

the heavy clouds seemed to throw over me 
the courage to have a personality

to love with my whole heart, (just not when it comes to you, but that comes later)

I ask them what is love, if it is not the 

abnormal thudding of my heart and the
foolishness of my mind if I give greater 
meaning to simple things that friends do

like how a hug becomes arms winding 
around necks and waists, heads resting at clavicles and shoulders 

and a jostle from a long slumber
every limb and organ awake 

sunlight filtering in through drapes, sunlight filtering through the crinkles of your eyes and the gaps in your full toothed grin 

how I wrote poetry about the way your hands held mine, with purpose, with a firmness that said to me I  love you, I will never leave your side, I will lead you and we will find better things together 

how a kiss on the cheek becomes soft lips brushing marred, undeserving skin, and how the realization of “I  cannot imagine a life without you” burns and spreads through my veins

at fourteen I knew that the way my eyes met yours across a crowded room was only something that lovers do 

or a hopeless girl in love would 
and this went beyond the way love was shown in a blur of arms legs and everything in between

I knew that this was a love so true 

at fourteen I thought that friends did not hold each other like you held me, did not kiss temples and cheeks and eyelids like your lips brushed mine, did not see through the walls I put up in less favorable company like you tried to

I was only a child and so were you 
but just because my love was innocent doesn’t mean it wasn’t true 

sometimes children know better 
they shake their head because what kind of redemption does a tragic love get 

where is the silver lining? where is the optimist’s obtuse take on misery? there is none 
and heart break invades every cell of my body the way night creeps-in after sunset 
the night is now. the stars are out 

a shift in the cosmos, a rearranged universe 
a faultline in the canvas of my insignificant life triggered by monumental moments like 
the brush of a hand, the laughter I made happen that sounded like bells (even though a little snorty) 

and burnt caramel hair falling like a curtain but never quite hiding your face 
even if it did I could never forget it 
the way purple looks on your skin is prettier than the purples of the sun when it leaves me behind 

you are not the one who is unkind, I tell them when they grow bitter at a love that did not end well

a cataclysmic build up of secretive smiles and adolescent confusion 
ending up in nothing – anticlimactic 
disappointing, no frenzied kissing
no lover’s embrace

no picturesque end screen credits with the uplifting piano ballad, romantic instrumental break

I tell them I am not bitter
how could I be when I realized who I am because of you

what a tragedy that would have been otherwise; I don’t know the earth and the shift in tides and whether there is a force watching over me doing nothing

I don’t know much but I know myself
and I know love 

life will come later
I am who I am because of you
life can come later 

because I’ve already known what it is like to play with sleep softened fingertips in a too loud, too bright classroom

surrounded by eyes and confused stares that work hard to not trespass boundaries 
and ignore what is in plain sight

I know what it feels like to whisper in hushed tones and giggle childishly 

I’ve felt longing and the gratification that proceeds it 

when I ran to see you even after just barely an hour of separation 

surrounded by your friends, shrouded and still there was a small comfort

surrounded by my friends and you made me the sun

the awkwardness I dealt with is part of my being now 

but we spent too much time together so maybe it was always you

Brontë was onto something, so were the philosophers 

maybe my atoms were closer to yours when the universe was created 

maybe our souls are made out of the same soft fabric, well-worn and patchy with time 
hanging by a thread that runs through every single fracture in the tapestry of stars you created when you burst into my life like a supernova 

how can I be bitter now that I know what love, longing and endearment is? 

my hugs last longer now. I smile a bit brighter, I forgot to when you left but you would have hated that

there’s a space for you now where there used to be a chasm in my chest

my mind is still shadowed because the clouds will always follow me around
but I remember you and I were, and that makes the sun shine a little brighter

the clouds will burst, but that comes later 
for now I ‘m content with remembering you 
in almost every word you said to me 
and someday I will forget

but your smile touched me like the winter sun on a cloudless afternoon 
(let the clouds clear and feel the mountain breeze, my lovely.)

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