I want to know my father’s dreams, back when they were his
alone. What did he yearn for, before my mother, before me,
before the rest? Before his life settled into these easy rhythms
of companionship and love. In my mother tongue, the word
for sleeplessness is the word for dreamlessness. My father
did not suffer from a lack of sleep a single day in his life.
What happened to all those dreams then, the ones that did
not merge with those of his daughters? Did he ever wish he
could have worked abroad? Flown a plane? Invented something
curious and wonderful? I don’t want to put dreams in his head
that were not his; I want real details to hold on to, as granular
as the time he did the bhangra, spontaneously, with my sister
when she placed fourth one year in her medical school class.
Instead, all I find are gaps where perhaps once ambition used
to live: a mostly blank tape, with a few words, some pictures,
a handful of memories I splice together into a map of a man.
FATIMA MALIK (she/her) is a fundraiser and poet with work published in dreams walking, perhappened mag, Golden Walkman Magazine, seiren, sidereal magazine, and the winnow. At the moment, she is working on her first full-length collection of poems, Elegies Burnished by Memory Flame, an excavation of grief after her father's sudden death. She has a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a joint MA in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from New York University. While she currently lives in New York City, her heart is forever in Lahore.