The “What I Should Have Said” Dictionary

by Rimsha Kashif



     like diving into water, like chasing a missed bus, like learning how to drive, like learning how to fly. With wings, newly sprouted. Like a test run.

    like lying to your parents, like lying to yourself, like lying at all. Like I did. To myself. For you.

     like the first time taking a drag, like the first time you promise it’ll be the last time, like writing a poem. Like you did. For me.


Affinity, in chemistry it is defined as the force that brings atoms together in chemical compounds. My body is made of atoms. So is yours. So is everybody’s. As you once pointed out as if I didn’t already know. The chemistry major.




    to be unafraid of being afraid. Like I was of saying goodbye. Like I still am.

     to be unafraid of falling down and staying there. Like reading Stephen Crane and attempting to walk when you can barely crawl. Why do we feel shame when our knees hit the ground? After all, both feet and knees are limbs. Why must we always attempt?


Baha’i, the broken sign hanging next to my neighborhood carwash. The faith. The first time you mentioned God. It was blue, like the sky, darker than your eyes. You said it made more sense than the eighteen years of spending Sunday mornings in church. I wash my own car now.



Cannabis, your one true love. Besides her.


California, one week, seven days, 168 hours I spent pretending I had better things to do than wonder if there were two beds. Or only one. Or if there was a bed at all. I’ve gotten really good at pretending.


Chest, like this town, empty. And you were its only beating heart.


The Darjeeling Limited, you cried at the end. It was a happy ending. I was so lost in believing I wasn’t seen that the view I woke early to see every morning was fading into the distance until I couldn’t see it anymore. I’ve started hating Owen Wilson since then.



      for sentiment, for longing, for everything you never said. I’m a lover of words.

      for all the moments that I conjured inside my head to satisfy a craving no name has been given to yet.

      for falling for those moments.

      for still falling.


Drowning, quite like living; the breathlessness feels good until you can no longer reach the surface.




     of a book, the one whose name I forget because all I remember are the pages folded at the corners hiding words you showed only me. You knew I was a lover of words.

    of a prayer, specifically the one Kid Cudi song you played for me during English.

    of the humerus where it turns into the ulna which turns into the wrist which turns into your hand holding a heart I thought was mine. It wasn’t.


Eighteen, candles on the cake. Eighteen balloons hanging on the walls. Your parents couldn’t make it. You made eighteen wishes instead of one. Your parents still couldn’t make it.


Earth; the earth cracks beneath my feet and I split into two. Pieces of myself falling through the abyss: a warm smile, wet eyes, open arms. A limb, an arm, a heart. Fragments of your eyes, the corner of your jaw, the shape of your hands spreading across my remains like spilled ink. The earth swallows me whole when you smile at me.



Fracture, like wooden homes, like anklebones, like expectations, like you and I. Mostly I.



     of change.

     of how far we’ve come from the blisters on our feet and the people that we’ve lost.

     of being lost.


Guilt, I’m broke. I’ve spent it all. Now I just wish to be angry, without the fear of a few cents still caught in my pockets.


Glass, some eyes are like windows-muggy. You can try to rub at them with your heart on your sleeve but you can’t erase the grime. You only smear it.


Henna, the tattoo of a compass on your heart that you hid like your heart itself, forgetting that I had seen both. The needle pointing to your jugular, your lifeline, where I could smell her.



     he, like my father. I said don’t worry, there’s room in his heart to fit another broken piece. We’ll find you an aisle seat, less drafty, space to stretch your legs and where the waves of loathing can cascade into the aisle. Don’t worry, we’ll clean up. Where you can leave whenever you like. I never expected so soon.


     he, a pronoun; a word that replaces a noun. Her instead of she, he instead of you. I’m still searching.



Ink, like blood running through cuts on the soles of our feet made by treading on fragments of the people we love. Your feet must be stained.



     Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.



     Three shots of espresso.

     you and I.


Jump, into the first hands that laid themselves out to me like when the first time your mother told you she loves you, hungry for a taste that had never touched our lips before. Beggars can’t be choosers.


Kites, free to soar in the air but pulled back to the ground whenever they reach out of sight. As in us.


Lose, a verb. To misplace.

     To misplace your voice inside my mind.

     To misplace the warmth of the sunlight.

     To misplace the roads that lead to home.

     To misplace home.


Lavender, the color of the lilies you painted in Art. You asked if I wanted them and I accepted for something more than you were giving. They were crushed.


La Dispute, the band, where Jordan Dreyer, lead guitarist sings in “And the King said to the River”: “Up m’lady pack your things this place is not your home.”


Maverick, a free spirit. You wanted to be a tourist, to peek into the hearts of others but stay for the beat, unlike your father. You wanted to roam, to walk along dim-lit alleys of foreign veins, but stop to toss loose change at the throbbing of the pulse. You wanted to wander, to fly but to never stray too far from home. They ask about you from time to time. I tell them I’ll have to ask your father.


March, the season. Also when you said goodbye.


Nest, I’ve stood on the edge of my throat, waving goodbye to words I’ll never say, swallowed by fear of the flight like birds leaving their nest for the first time.


Night, as in goodnight, as in the first time I heard the words from your mouth and felt like I would never sleep again.


Okay, as in fine, as in all right, as in just as well as in never great, never excellent. Okay as in here but not present, as in have but not what you want, as in leaving but not gone. Just okay.


Overture, the beginning of the ending of the moments I never looked past, too caught up in the here while you were too caught up in the beyond. 


Palm, you carried the whole world in the palm of your hand but I’m afraid there wasn’t any room for me. After all, the world is quite large.


Plank, like the diving board. Like my father and his father before him our hearts. Like the world is the sea and we are the shore.


Quench, to extinguish.

     like a fire.

     like a need.

     like a craving.

     like all of the above.



      you are but a question of what comes next. I linger far too long on the edge of your uncertainty. Forgetting, that you have no edges. Polished, so much I am afraid of stumbling. So I perch on the periphery of to stumble and to not stumble. Somehow, I stumble anyways.



Running, away from mountains I have already climbed for disappointment of the view outweighs the cuts on my feet and the sweat on my skin.


Roots, are simply monuments, familiar streets, local wine, pieces of smiles we used to traipse in and echoes of voices that feel like home to the skin. We are mere leaves sprouting out of them, blown away by the wind. Lost, with no direction.



Sentiment, is as deep as a memory. Shallow waters hold little remembrance; deeper waters hold the fear of drowning. So I keep my distance from water.


Soul, old,

     older than your mom’s smile

     and your dad’s graying hair.

     older than the dimples in your cheeks

     and the birthmark on my knee.

     old as my love, but not older.


Silence, you are a silence I am afraid to hear.



Time, it has a way of turning generations into memories and memories into wall hangings and wall hangings into musty photos thrown into the bottom of a box lying in a rustic basement. You used to call me an antique.


Tidal wave, I am like the earth: inviting travellers to leave behind dirty footprints and cigarette butts, broken bottles of half-sipped beer and words that linger on the sodden surface with no intentions of staying the night. I, a lover of words, am like the earth after the waves crash the surface, uninvited.


Us, more like I.


Voyage, as in the blood leaving and entering the heart within fractions of a second with nowhere to go but where it came from.



     the heart when it refuses to beat.

     sight when it refuses to see what it lost.

     touch when it refuses to feel what it can’t keep.



Woe, I am occasionally reminded by your friend Shakespeare, “Woe is me. To have seen what I have seen, see what I see.”


Wade; to wade I like to think is to live.


X, like intersection,

     like meeting once and never again,

     like a crossroads,

     like gaining then losing,

     like making a left or going straight. I hate driving.




Yearn, for you to yearn for me like I do for you.


Zest, as in your smile when you waved goodbye.


Zinda (alive), I am like a pulse: hiding beneath wrinkled skin, finding refuge in meandering vessels in hope they will lead to a home. I, a lover of words am like a pulse in a stranger’s heart.