Excerpt from Sprawl
the time it took us to forget
By Manahil Bandukwala & Conyer Clayton
We are in the hadal zone.
Pressure high, population low.
Please, less low.
Some places in the world have always been
scarce. The deeper you go, the more
But our weight.
But our density. We fight.
We just bump around the darkness.
Right now, I think of myself
as a glowing little shrimp.
There are so many of us in the world
but we rarely find
Still my body glows.
Please notice me! Across the salt plains!
Please notice me! Across the street.
We go on walks but I step into the road
We're in this together
but please leave me alone.
We're in this together but please
alone. We write
in we, that is something not yet
taken away. We tells us
of our resilience. From distance
I wrap my arms around another body.
It feels the pressure of my palms
ghost across it. Soon,
I forget touch. I think of myself
as a backyard squirrel
waiting for garden parties to forage
scraps. How can I tell it that summer
is late this year, that winter
has been prolonged. Keep the sweaters
out. Keep the stovetop
burning low. Spices simmer in we,
we drink our cups in separate rooms.
Manahil Bandukwala is a Pakistani writer and artist currently based in Mississauga. She is co-lead of Reth aur Reghistan, a visual-literary exploration of Pakistani folklore that she is carrying out alongside her sister, Nimra. See more at sculpturalstorytelling.com. Her work has appeared in CV2, The Malahat Review, PRISM, and other places.
Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa-based artist who aims to live with compassion, gratitude, and awe. Her most recent chapbooks are Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019), / (post ghost press, 2019), Undergrowth (bird, buried press, 2018) and Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press, 2018). She released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still, in August 2018. She won Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, performs sound poetry with Quatuor Gualuor, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full length collection of poetry is We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, from Guernica Editions (2020).