Unopened Letters Sent Home : 1986 – 2061

Poetry meets prose…
By Asmara Malik

Monday, September 25

I’m not sure about you in this din
of galaxies crashing about our feet.
In your uneasy sleep you speak of a Sarhad where

empty skyscrapers smolder beneath baleful suns. So

compelled, I walk the silent streets of Islamabad, until dawn
until it is too late to return home, amidst other transient ghosts
who do not speak my tongue. We walk…

Tuesday, September 26

He cannot sleep.

An overhead speaker announces that the bus will be late, we apologize for the inconvenience, thankyouforchoosingtotravel… the rest of it becomes a blue Doppler-fade-away as he walks back to the parking lot. It is 3 a.m. He will not find a cab. He will not be going home. He leaves his bags on the steps of the bus terminal. Somewhere in the time it takes for him too unshoulder his bags and the moment they hit the soft clay-colored earth, he realizes that he is tired of lying to himself.

He is not going home.

The man at the khoka pours his chai into a chipped glass mug, milk blooming downwards and outwards within amber gloom.

He calls him sahib. He leaves him his last twenty rupees.

Wednesday, September 27

2.56 a.m. They let him sleep in the garden of their small house, the Balochi woman and her daughter. He dreamed of billowing red cloaks upon the sands of Thar and women singing on the crumbling walls of abandoned forts in Rajasthan. He woke up but he doesn’t think he did. He doesn’t think he’s ever really awake. Later, he dreamed of his mother again after a long, long time. She stood at the window of his old house in Quetta and pointed at the sky. One by one, from the North to the South, every star in the sky fell, until the hemispheres were starless and naked night stared directly down upon us all. The lakes of Balochistan do not have names; they have myths. The mountains have names because there are many, many mountains. They gave him roti in the morning. The daughter gives him her chappal. She calls him bhai and asks him to bless her. He thanks her and tells her she needs no blessings.

Thursday, September 28

There is no solace in Sindh. Undead bones of priests and poets cry out from beneath the ochre earth of Chaukundi. He leaves knowing that the dead sleep uneasily. The company of ancestral echoes does not make eternity any easier to bear in this necropolis. On Makli Hill in Thatta, he turns his face to the wind and smells spring. The sea is a dying siren; its voice holds no allure. The midnight moon only exposes its putrid façade. The cry of the last Blind Dolphin is a death-rattle and he will not hear the deep sorrow of its loss any more. He lies down beside the river, this dream-snake coursing through our land like sinuous silk. The gentle cadence of its whispering tides tells him to rest. But then he remembers Harrapa and he knows the river is a liar. It may not be as temperamental as the Tigris but neither is it as faithful as the Nile. Sindhu, the river– one you call, the Indus. He is tired. He longs for no dreams. The river weeps. In the village, a woman’s screams rend the night. Her lover has returned from the war in Kargil. They leave the bodies at the doors of their homes in the dead of night. Her husband will be buried at dawn and this land is not kind to widows. The voice of Punjab is a distant, slatternly song. He will let his feet sink in her muddy bosom, a queen-whore embracing her every conqueror and poisoning them in their sleep.

Equinox – Between Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30

…barefoot upon
asphalt avenues, beneath the midnight moon;
awaiting the next Great Road to be laid
along the dusty cattle-tracks of Punjab. Behold! Our…

Sunday, September 31

He jolts awake. The bus takes another cataclysmic lurch and hurtles to a halt outside a raucous bus depot on the outskirts of Lahore. A man, his face all leery smiles, asks him where he would care to spend the night. A little girl, her left hand cup-shaped and pleading, is singing in a voice both piping and weeping. Bahaar, she sings, bahaar ai. He watches maggots swarm across the scabrous stump of her right arm. In the phone booth next to his, a woman is saying “and I said something that sounded ridiculously like love and oh god I was so afraid of her laughing up in my face.” He calls his sister and cannot say anything when she says “Hello?” She says “Bhai..?” and he hangs up. Heera Mandi sprawls languidly beneath his window. He watches a whore give roti to a young man with matted hair and wild eyes. An older walrus-man, with lassi clinging to his moustache, pulls her away. The wild-eyed man watches and does nothing. A door bangs shut. He falls on his knees by the fetid gutters; weeps.

A muezzin calls the faithful to sunrise prayers.

Monday, September 32

I’m not sure about you in this din
of galaxies crashing about our feet.
In your uneasy sleep you speak of a Sarhad
where empty skyscrapers smolder beneath a baleful sun.
So compelled, I walk the silent streets of Islamabad,
until dawn, until it is too late to return home,
amidst other transient ghosts who do not

speak my tongue. We walk barefoot upon
asphalt avenues, beneath the midnight moon;
awaiting the next Great Road to be laid
along the dusty cattle-tracks of Punjab.
Behold! Our shadows are caught and stretched
between forgotten lakes in Balochistan;
splintered to unfathomed shapes
by the exploding wings of migratory birds in Sindh.
Strangers— strangers passing through each dawn of these lands.

 

Asmara Malik is the Deputy Editor for Poetry at The Missing Slate and is a fourth year medical student living in Pakistan. Her interests include mathematics, photography, late night television and Trent Reznor. She can usually be found lurking at http://elmara.deviantart.com.

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