​East Fork:

A Journal of the Arts​​

Why not tell Maira what you thought of their award-winning poem?! Be sure to put their name, your email, "On and Of Hyphens" in the subject, and your message so they can see your comment!

Like stomps on concrete,
I follow the plunges and pushes of English,
how it arches, pierces through words,
my tongue-tied touch stammering
the skims and hugs of Urdu,
its careful footfalls on thawing dirt.

The curve of consonants sour
like a vibrant candy staling,
potential left in a gleaming wrapper,
lost in the swirling Atlantic
of my hybrid, hyphenated existence.

In graphology, it’s said
a crossed out signature
is desire to cross out one’s life,
distance between names
is distance between identities,
how high the slash of a t
or far out the dot of an i is —
it means something.

The uptick or downturn
of Pakistani-American,
what does that mean?
Is the hyphen pointing to true north,
an arrow on the compass of latitudes
of the borders I claim as home?
How can such a small space hold
so much subconscious meaning?
Or is this the overanalyzing
of the non-native, non-tourist,
forever foreigner, desperate cartographer
mapping the intangibility of belonging?

If I mapped my own body,
I feel I’d find a “Made in Pakistan” label
sown onto an American soul.

I’m an emigrant and immigrant,
export and import easily
exhaled and inhaled,
breathed into assimilation,
into newness that never wears off.
Dogeared novels and creased sneakers
become dreams when your skin speaks
stuttered syllables in one country,
your tongue is washed white in the other.

How many hyphens am I of,
how many will come after?
Fractions and dashes of beginnings,
counted even in Spanish before the Urdu
I can recall but twenty-two numbers of.

If you do ever count my starts,
count them with the ends of dulled pencils
and the ink drops of a pen
homogenized into a stroke
of diasporic intent.

And, for once,
count me in.

On and Of Hyphens

​By: Maira Faisal