women of two

by alizeh ayesha

How is the body more than the self? How do bodies become entwined unevenly in the process of meeting their needs and wants, sometimes in relations of support and at other times, harm? 

My poems echo this guiding question from you are here’s 2021 call for submissions by articulating the gendered expectations on a body and by exploring the entwined relationship of a female body with the body of the mother, of the grandmother, and of the sister.

Any present political moment must always account for the ways the body has been historically made, was made before; the present injustice is always an escalation or a repetition. In order for a woman to do that in the Global South means to look to ‘memory, trauma and an embodied history.’ 

These poems are attempts to articulate a silent painful relationship between familial gendered bodies and spaces. In these works, I try to situate the women in my family and myself in relation to different spaces. The anxieties of gendered bodies in the spaces of the home, the institution, the city, and the village is a theme I explore through these poems. As a Sindhi woman living in Karachi, Pakistan — whose family migrated to the city from the ‘rural’ parts of Sindh province — to be educated means to be colonized, to have different expectations of gender forced on you. These conflicting expectations are a product of colonization, ancestral patriarchy, and the patriarchy of the state, of religion, of urbanization, and of globalization. They cannot be neatly removed from one another. For my elders, coming to the city means to witness the horrors and loneliness of a (gendered) modernity. 

These poems exist at an uneven site of urbanity and rurality through bodies that are neither (or both). The poems look at the guiding question of bodies becoming entwined at the site of harm, at the site of anxiety, and also suggest a different way of seeing.


You who at home, are home
Are of service,
You who become your mother
As the language you speak
Becomes a prisoner of you
You who don’t feel like more than a vessel
You who can name all the things you must be
future-wife, now sister, now daughter,
Now burden, tomorrow too,
Repayment seems endless
So your servitude becomes you,
And the restrictions of your world,
Prevent you from becoming someone else
But you know,
You are just performing for those who you love,
Who you were born to love

When love and service cannot be torn apart from each other
You move to another world,
You who are a woman of two

You who at university are someone else,
You with your friends,
You with a class that seems separate from home,
You with a language an institution taught you,
You with a language that the west sent to you,
You with your opinions, your thoughts, your ideas
You present a sameness unto them,
Convince them, I am one of you too,
I am a woman of two,

You who fears freedom,
You who indentured gendered servitude
You who indentured the servitude of modern woman too,
You want to be accepted in two

Does it not suffocate you,
Women of two,
Split in two,
Being pushed into becoming two,
Deny that you are urban
Deny that you are center
Deny your mother’s aspiration for you
When she commanded that you leave your home
And become man
When she commanded that you still be woman
When she asked for you to be two,

You with your opinions, your thoughts, your feelings,
You, in two worlds, are the third,
You forget to be them


Alizeh Ayesha is a writer, architect, and artist from Karachi, Pakistan. She studied architecture at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. She is interested in questions related to space, politics, gender, and colonization and hopes to continue to explore these themes through her writing, research, and art practice. She was recently shortlisted for the Zeenat Haroon Rashid Writing Prize for her nonfiction essay “Bad House.”