A voice from the Valley

A Kashmiri poet writes about barbed wires and a phone call from home

I Sip Cold Coffee in Café Turtle, Khan Market, New Delhi

I cuddle into a calm

on a green wing chair.

Daily Special on blackboard:

Lebanese Platter / Cinnamon Roll

My smart phone rings: HOME.

I step out to Turtle Terrace,

shout: ‘Are you able to buy

food during curfews in Kashmir?’

I feel guilty I’m sure at home

they’ve stripped the last green

from leaves. I straighten my

face, stroll back in. Two grey-

haired silk saris blend Kehwa

and broad-minded politics,

three FabIndia kurtas talk profits,

their bellies prosperous.

Espresso machine hisses my name

Is caffeine tricking my brain?

Placard on door: ‘Have You

Got Café Turtle Loyalty Card?’

I feel like a hopping clown

inverting loyalties. Lest glances

across the room declare

my reversed solidarity,

I huddle at my table strewn

with cinnamon crumbs.

I hate crummy tables,

unfold a fresh paper napkin

to map my life—a farce-in-progress.

*************

Lightness of Being in a Heavily Militarised Zone

before they lay barbed wire

across our tongues

let’s sing of almond blossoms

before they hammer our heads to

harvest thoughts let’s think

what we want to think

before they wall our sleep

let’s whisper dreams

into cold cruel ears

before they blind us

with a burst of lead

let’s mirror our darkness

let’s engrave this story

with fingertips on palms

before they erase our words

From Serpents under my Veil: Poems by Asiya Zahoor; published by Tethys, an imprint of Yatra Books, in July 2019

Published on August 09, 2019

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