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Qasida of Half-Widows

Qasida of the Teahouse by the Lake


Zephyr’s saffron-sigh hanging in window 

closed to news of Kashmir, window unlock-

ing almond- and begonia birds that fly  

together to Dal— lake of the beautiful

possible you drew every time they asked 

about a map or a mass grave. Stubborn

dreamer, your porcelain waters resist

a bloodied game. Climb the steps that lead

to the teahouse burnished with the glow of

half-widows, teahouse of long-awaited men



Qasida of the Bridesmaid’s Candle

Before the disappearance of the man

who strikes a match with one hand, shields with care

the candle with the other, while she lifts 

the copper stand— wax melting, a jewel

traversing her forehead, closely missing 

the flame she carries— before this bridesmaid 

sees his hand guarding her light, it seems they 

will remain haloed by wedding shimmer

He will pour her daily tea, cinnamon-pink

satin drink, steam rising to balconies


Qasida of the Mynah and the Blind Musician 


The hills return the songs of the mynah

and the blind musician with his brass tongs

which he plays to the drum hanging across 

his shoulder by a rope. He knows the stone

fruits by size and shape (cherry, plum, apricot),

seasons by songbirds, time of the day by

the type of tea: kehwa in the morning,

salt tea in the afternoon with sheer maal.

He does not know its green-gold or cedar, 

nods to the gurgle of the samovar



Qasida of the Anatomy of a Letter

The minaret in your ribcage is banned

as is the muezzinin your breath, the scent

of Eid feast. The mountain is your mother

Her shoulders are calm, her heart is ample

Bring to her your art of braiding absence

with the rose-gold filaments of her

forbearance, bring all seven orchards of

the Sufis in a bottle of ink and

a sheaf of paper, scatter your hopes among

the wisteria, dry tear-sodden letters 



Qasida of the Charcoal Burner

Bitter cold, you stay within whispering 

distance of the charcoal burner, imagine

your old swing on the chinar, reddening sky,

leaping panther, pomegranate grove, abode

of fairies, a boot kicking an oil lamp 

on a straw-laden boat. Someone has woven

for this moment a shawl of mercy with a field

of corn silk, a medallion of pearl buds,

someone has brewed gulabi chai with cardamom,

adds cream, someone watches over your wound.



Half-widows: Thousands of Kashmiri men have been unaccounted for during the decades-long military occupation of Kashmir. Their wives are called “half-widows.” A half-widow may remarry after four years if her husband doesn’t return. 

Gulabi Chai: Kashmiri “pink tea”








Posted 09/06/19
This poem first appeared in the magazine "Paris Lit Up" in 2017.
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