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zubair ahmed


journeys in space and time

“The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.”



1. On A Train to Shangri-La
People's voices move through air
Like flies as I notice the ten hands
Of my wristwatch.
My clothes, wet from rain,
Smell like the shoulders
Of factory workers on Friday
Waiting in line to check out,
Their eyebrows thick with ash,
Their necks stiff like old doors,
Lips like canyons viewed from the moon.
My throat, dry and ceramic,
Resembles the store on the corner
Of Main Street, where an old woman
Tells stories of the past to anyone
Who listens, where a child once bragged
About becoming mayor.
I hear the distant bells
Of your voice.
My knees become gold.
I open your hand-written note.
I board a beam of light.
I am coming to find you.

2. On An Airplane to the Sun
I can't take the noise of these engines anymore -
My headache is pushing my hair out of my scalp!
I can't seem to speak. What is happening
To me? Where is the lever that will stop
This pain, the switch which will turn off
The blood to my senses? Opening my eyes
Is no different from lifting a mountain.
I try to make sentences in any language.
I fail and a darkness presses against all sides
Of my existence.
I am an asteroid who never thinks of meaning.
I eat only myself and soon I am dust. I am dust
Who never thinks of becoming whole. My dreams
Are as simple as oblivion. I am oblivion
Who never thinks of creation. Now, I am
Everywhere. Nothing is too heavy for me.
No amount of light is too much
To contain.

3. A Walk Along the Coast of Big Sur
I know I have become the Pacific.
The back of my hand is nowhere.
My lungs breathe clouds.
My voice is wind
Connecting the continents.
My friend shakes me awake.
The dawn, let's go see the dawn.
Through forests older than the Himalayas,
Beside ferns still holding the night's candles,
We hike to the beach, which lies in front of us
Like the palm of god.
The sky is dripping with stars.
A hundred years of silence
Fill each second,
The moment expands like a whale's song,
Our galaxy spins above our heads like haloes.
In the next thirty minutes, I become young,
A piece of music never heard, playing
As the first light of day opens like a gate
The size of the sky.
We walk along the coast,
Share jokes and a bottle of whiskey,
As the colors of a new beginning
Bath us in oranges and reds.
Remember that time we climbed down
A sheer cliff wearing sandals?
We could've died!
Though I still think
We should've brought along those beers.
4. On A Boat to the Horizon
I'm careful not to breathe
Like I do on land.
I've replaced my blood
With saltwater, and borrowed
The eyes and ears of an albatross.
Shades of blue surround me,
Sounds from the elements
Paint my inner landscape,
Spirits as old as earth sing hymns
To celebrate the moment's milk.

Rain begins like a game of chess.
I play against the ocean,
Whose moves show me her secrets,
The tremendous reach of her thoughts,
The rooms in which she sleeps
And awakens, the dress of coral reefs
She'll wear tomorrow.
With each move I become her,
Wild and liquid, cold only from a distance
Moving through the seasons holding a pen.
5. Entering the Dream Chamber
A street lit by glowing trees,
There is grass on the other side
Of concrete, entire rooms
In the teeth of rats, paradise
In the eyelash which falls on snow.
My body tossed like celery
Into corners shaped like thrones
Whose red cushions
Feel like meadows.
I am weak and thin.
I peel off my eyelids.
I face life unable
To blink.
I travel inside the minds of people,
I slip around like a muse.
Let me help you put your hands
On the sun, raise your heads into
The cyclone's flesh, stand with postures
Of swan, ready like the rock's outline
To change with time.
You've abandoned me.
Awake in a place beyond
Descriptions of word,
I befriend sorrow and make her
A thousand course meal.
I line the walls with Autumn's leaves,
I play with clay sculptures
And give them names.
They talk when I turn my back,
Gossip about the box of nightmares
I keep locked inside me.

In the absence of air,
I learn to breathe snow.
My skin is a new chandelier.
I am not like you anymore.
If I could pierce into the past,
Capture myself in the moment
Everything changed between us,
I would stop myself
And change nothing.
6. Driving North on Highway 1 at Twilight
Mom, I'm coming home.
I haven't seen you in years.
The worry on your face
Is all I remember.
I left because
I needed to know
Who I am,
To find the origins
Of my consciousness.
I'm coming home
With answers.
I've found that I can talk
With birds, that I can listen
To the chemistry of mushrooms,
That the deer don't mind me
When I'm one with them.
Breathing the smells of soil after rain,
I've discovered the language forests speak,
The tones of their green tongues.
When the frogs sing at night,
I become a frog.
When fox prances on rabbit,
I become both.
My arms and legs and organs
Are extensions of their intentions.
I've found meaning in the falling of a leaf.
I've found a lifetime in the sounds of a waterfall.

I've discovered a great sadness too.
Walking into any room, I see humans
Who think they are non-animals.
No one understands me anymore.
When I marvel at the spider's web,
Someone brings a broom.
When I share a joke my deer
Buddies would understand,
People stare at me
Like I'm two bright headlights.
When I gather dead insects in jars,
All the women run away.
I once asked a bartender
Did you know we are 50% banana,
60% chicken, and 80% cow
by DNA?
To which he replied,
Ummm… an IPA?
I've become lonely, and it's alright.
Soon I'll be home with you.
Siri, end message and send.





Zubair Ahmed, born 1988, was raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before immigrating to the U.S. in 2005, he was a professional video gamer for a year and a half. After finishing high school in a small Texas town, he went to Stanford University for his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He is author of Ashulia, a chapbook published by Taverns Books in 2011. His first full-length collection, City of Rivers, published by McSweeney's, was nominated for a 2013 Northern California Book Award in Poetry. His works have appeared in Tin HouseBelieverPoetry Daily, and ZYZZYVA among others. He currently lives in Everett, Washington, where he enjoys working his day job as an engineer at Boeing and spending time exploring the Pacific Northwest.