For My Father, Karachi 1947

Mid-May, centipedes looped over netting at the well's mouth.
Girls grew frisky in summer frocks, lilies spotted with blood.

You were bound to meteorology,
Science of fickle clouds, ferocious winds.

The day you turned twenty-six fighter planes cut a storm,
Fissured air baring the heart's intricate meshwork

Of want and need—
Springs of cirrus out of which sap and shoot you raised me.

Crossing Chand Bibi Road,
Named after the princess who rode with hawks,

Slept with a gold sword under her pillow,
Raced on polo fields,

You saw a man lift a child, her chest burnt with oil,
Her small thighs bruised.

He bore her through latticed hallways
Into Lady Dufferin's hospital.

How could you pierce the acumen of empire,
Mesh of deceprion through which soldiers crawled,

Trees slashed with petrol,
Grille work of light in a partitioned land?

When you turned away,
Your blue black hair was crowned with smoke—

You knelt on a stone. On your bent head
The monsoons poured.

by Meena Alexander

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