Welcome to StoriesEtc, a place where University of Wisconsin students can share their original works of creative writing with the community, whether it be poetry, short stories or anything in between. As a section dealing with the arts, it feels only natural to create an opportunity for students to share their creative talents.

With that being said, let’s meet this week’s contributor, and The Badger Herald’s opinion editor, Yusra Murad:

The Badger Herald: Tell us about yourself. What’s your major?

This is my third year at UW, and I am majoring in psychology with certificates in business, entrepreneurship and global health. I love singing, painting and frisbee. I am really bad at singing, painting and frisbee.

BH: Define your writing, authorship and perspective.

My writing, intricately wound to my ongoing relationship with identity and family, has served as an emotional and intellectual outlet from a young age. Growing up as a Pakistani-American Muslim in a predominantly white city, and moving to an even whiter college, means maintaining delicate balance on a razor-thin tightrope at all times. Simultaneously, it is my sweetest blessing. I write to tell my truths, for you, and for me.

BH: When did you start writing creatively?

I latched on to creative writing and fiction in elementary and middle school, as it allowed me to lose myself in a world I could build on my own when it felt like I had no control over this one. Spoken word and poetry came naturally to me as I embraced my brownness and womanhood in high school.

BH: Talk about your creative process. What inspires you, and how do you get from an idea to a finished product?

I am inspired by the women who have come before me, none of whom had the privilege of focusing on their creativity the way I do. Nothing I create will be a finished product until I am — and I’ve got a ways to go. The majority of my writing has a deep focus on the intersection and direct clash of my identities and the smallest artifacts that come along with that, so sometimes I’m inspired by a Muslim ban, and other times by my own thick eyebrows.

StoriesEtc: ‘Desert Dream’ tells the story of fleeting love, intimacy with natureWelcome to StoriesEtc, a place where University of Wisconsin students can share their original works of creative writing with the Read…

Here is a sample of Yusra’s work:

“My heart, mere dil”

Water rushes into my lungs,
I scream with my heartstrings, from the bottom of my stomach,
The noise piercing the silence of abandon,
Thrashing in stillness,
I feel everything,
I hear nothing.

My lungs,
compress, folding, twisting, curling into one another, immersed in dance,

My breath,
caught deep in my throat, pounding on the inside of my body, begging, pleading for release.

Fingers turn white, coarse blue, vicious red, thick violet —
my mother’s favorite dress.

Thin white rope, wound across the delicate skin of my wrist, gently trailing off to whisper with the deepest secrets of the ocean,
secrets I have never been told,
suspended without reason,

Perhaps someone will hold it, pull me to the surface, please god, can anyone hear me?

My eyes burn, my eyes close,
I feel nothing,
I hear song.

My arm nearly jolts out of its socket.

The coolness of concrete presses against my cheek.

Every inch of my body burning, coughing, I spill water tainted with red, vomiting blood, heaving, shaking on the pavement, thank you, god,
thank you for my life,

On hands and knees I say a prayer.

My eyes are drawn to shaking hands.
White rope, glinting in the sunlight, wound around my wrist, like thread on a spool,

(like a spool from my grandmothers sewing kit, like her “sewing kit” is three spools and a dusty pair of scissors tucked away in an old tin that once held chocolates, like chocolates her husband used to pick out especially for her from the gloomy London airport, the ones he knew she loved, she never threw that tin away)

seared into my skin,
and as I run to catch my sputtering breath, my eyes follow its trail.
It ends at the feet of the man who saved me.

His smile is smooth, falling satin,
his eyes are black tar.
I remember him. The man I love.

The bruises coloring my neck, painted across my face, my chest, my stomach,
a discarded canvas, forgotten by the artist,
remind me of his anger yesterday.

When he tells me, you look beautiful
Darling,
I wonder, did you know I was drowning?
I want to scream,
you know I was
— am —
drowning.

The words shake in my mouth. His hand outstretched, I grasp onto this love, our fingers intertwined, he lightly lays me on my back,

Our lips nearly touch, his breath like ice.

I love you. You are my home. The only home I have ever known.

My arms pinned against the ground, powerless
as he spits in my face,
rubbing the brown from my skin with sandpaper,
tearing the jewelry from my neck,
slashing the remnants of my father’s accent from my throat,
“terrorist,”
his knife etching the word in my collarbone,
one
letter
at
a
time.

I protest,
my love for you is my home,
America,
I abandoned the sweet taste of my mother tongue so I could speak to you,
America.

Wounds soaked in the bitter salt of tears.

I will be alone without you, I cry out.

But perhaps I would rather be
alone,
naked, cold, deserted, afraid,
alone,
than tangled in your arms.

A net soaked in my sweat and the blood extracted from black, brown, indigenous bodies, clipping the corners of my skin.

You are so kind to your lovers.

You will never hold my brown skin.

I dig my fingernails into his coarse arms, relishing the sound of his pain.
He appears
unbreakable, steel, iron, unbendable, forever,
He is
delicate china, teetering on the edge of my nani’s chest of drawers,
shattering into one million pieces,
land of the free,
home not for me.

Submerged, release.

Across the sea, hot sand presses against my cheek, sticking to my wet hands and feet as I rise.

My skin absorbs music from the dhol, the bruises on my arms
dripping away
as the juice from a mango slides down my wrist.

My lips would have tasted of saltwater right before he kissed me,
if he had kissed me.
If he had seen me.

I am mindlessly, hopelessly lost in a love which grips me at moments when I am thoroughly unprepared to face such longing.

I run to him, my heart outpacing my feet,
closer to me in this moment than ever before,
my breath escapes me, I beg it to return, legs burning, you cannot slow
you will not slow,

(I recall pressing my gaze, from the backseat of Mama’s van, against mountains gently holding the clouds,
intimacy, an embrace I envy,
wondering how, after sixty miles per hour for hour after hour,
they still appear so distant?)

eternally within my reach,
never in my grasp.

He does not need me, I come to realize, and my pace slows.

I am deeply in love but abandoned his tongue,
we speak with our eyes,
our eyes see different worlds,
he is the thin skin of my wrist and my Milky Way,
I am a stranger,
American.

Because Pakistan does not belong to me, and though I need you,
Pakistan,
wrapped around my shoulders, locked between your jasmine arms, light chiffon trailing down my back,
Thin gold chain resting on
my collarbone,

you do not need me.

But who has ever escaped the prison of unrequited love?

Submerged, suspended.