Prose

Monsoons

for Papa — the paterfamilias

one by one

the old guard

passes on

and

oceans away

we grow old, too.

Long before my grandfather was my grandfather, he was a boy who went to a large, colonial boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas. At dawn, they would all wake, bleary-eyed, and run a couple of miles before showering and heading to the mess for breakfast. There were three kinds of meals prepared each morning — English, halal, and vegetarian — for the three kinds of students. When summer arrived, he would often go to stay at one friend’s or another’s, following a patchwork of brotherhood that stretched across India, linked by the efficient trains of the Raj and schoolyard camaraderie. But, sometimes, he would come home, and then he would spend his days bicycling through the streets of Bombay; through sheets of monsoon rain; through Partition itself; until time caught up to him.

Now he walks in the neighbourhood park in the late Karachi afternoons with the other old men until the sun sets.

But, sometimes, in his dreams, he is a boy again and it is warm and bright again and his mother is still in the kitchen, humming as she cooks, and he hears a shout from outside and he grabs his bike and runs out to meet the other kids and together they cycle through their beloved Bombay once more, a city that, finally, lives on in them, lives on until the very last one remembers it for the very last time.

***

This morning on the news they said the monsoons will begin soon.

Photograph by Shanzeh Najam.

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Poetry

Arcadia

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.

At least they had ideas about love.

Mary Szybist, The Troubadours Etc.

heavy New England sunlight floods your apartment.

in the mornings after, your bed is too small for us both.

the only music — faint — from your old phone in the shower.

it’s always Sunday, somewhere.

contrails fade into clear, blue sky.

the porches of the nation creak beneath

bluejeans and familiar conversation.

faded pastel flags above the strip

mall flutter in the breeze.

and somehow I am in a scratchy grey sweater

a schoolboy in a long forgotten —

now urgently familiar — corridor.

it is winter yet I am not cold.

something burns within me:

it is the thought of meeting you.

but every step is time, time, time.

Heraclitus’ curse.

decades pass.

I grow estranged from my self.

the music grows louder.

the bathroom door opens.

what’s wrong?

you ask

why on earth are you shivering?

The Cloisters, Fort Tryon

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Poetry

Celestial Mechanics

What potions have I drunk of Siren tears?

Shakespeare, Sonnet CXIX

Two thousand years ago, Ptolemy

traced the vagaries of the stars

and was left immortal for that

and I, too, yearn for the taste

of ambrosia. So here I lie, on

moonless nights, writing my

own Almagest, as I trace the

constellations formed by the

stardust of your nevi.

Howard Pyle, “The Mermaid” (1910)

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Poetry

Giant

do you remember the tiny

balcony with the single,

swaying bulb? of

course, she said.

the cheap wine,

the red paper

cups.

how every Fourth of July

I leant there against the

gunwales of your heart,

watching the fireworks

flash in your

eyes.

yes, we lived like

giants, she

said.

P.S. If you look out the window, you might see a train travelling to tomorrow. 

P.P.S. time, she says, / “there’s no turning back, / keep your eyes on the tracks” / through the fields, somewhere there’s blue / oh, time will tell, she’ll see us through

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Poetry

Summer Begins in Whitestone, New York

(a haiku)

summer rains, stars rise —
taking the long way home I
am mugged by fireflies

Image result for primitive radio gods

and if I die before I learn to speak / can money pay for all the days I lived awake / but half asleep?

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Poetry

Camelot

Every love story is a ghost story.

David Foster Wallace

in a flyover state where

the trains do not stop

but chug on toward the

hills, a quiet chord drifts

out over the darkling

plains and is lost for ever

to the wind and rain and

perhaps we are only

this: ghosts before our

time burning through

books burning through

women burning through

ourselves hoping to find

Camelot.

oceans away — a place

where nobody speaks the

language of the heartland

— you wait for the Q44 to

take you home. lights

alight. church bells toll

the hour. tonight the

street is empty and the

night is empty and the

moon will not rise and

there will be no stars to

guide you home. only the

dumpster fires rage on,

filled with the debris of

yesterday.

I got this window that looks out to Orion / I paid extra for

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