At dawn I woke to a translucent dream,
and Zeinabu was bending over me -
her eyes tender unfolding hibiscus,
her smile the sharp edge of a naked blade.
You recall Zeinabu, don't you? She comes
often, to my bedside, banyan, angst, verse,
she is the rose that goes by many names -
Zenobia sometimes, Janhavi, Jean -
as per the moods of the seasons and stars.
Today she handed me a light console,
smiled her sharpest smile, most mysterious,
whispered, “no walls. Water, everywhere. Still.”
She used to stop by the golden windows -
calabash with endless rafts of butter
in a buttermilk sea - and ask strangely
pointed questions. She was the old, cracked pane
refracting rainbows off her own edges,
shattered raindrops on her limbs and torso
collected into rivulets, into
the fluid breadth of language as they fell.
The roofs were archived in her, the broken
brick arches, the crumbling sphinxes that spoke
with the mouths of kings. Two mourning doves played
with her left shoulder, she gently set them
down on my balcony, “these might bring you
something.” They didn’t stay long, pecked the rattan
of the seat, kissed her hands for the last time,
and took flight, invisible in seconds.
“They can be,” she sighed, “a bit annoying
really, why I can’t fathom.” She came with
dawnlit tombs hidden in her braided hair,
the forks of wide boulevards on her forehead.
She brought baskets of fruits - figs, guavas,
split them open to flesh-pink, offered me
an uneven quarter, and asked after
my mothers, my children, the dusty bloom
on the innards of my wine kegs and cups,
inscribed rice grains, and bullets, flattened by
ricochet, collected at my feet in
poison pools of metal. Where street children
played at hopscotch and tag in the debris -
there was nowhere else to go. “How’s that one?”
She asked after the gun-fingered, ten-armedmembers of our furthest clans, our peoples.
India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan are reeling from the worst flooding in South Asia for decades. The losses are staggering. More than 40 million people are affected, and 1400+ people have been killed. Please click on this link here, and/or here if you wish to help.