in Kashmir all phones are dead

the cold gag is strong in the air:
deep-rooted Chinars
lift their icy arms to heavens
praying for the Spring’s thaw.
your Britain is cold too
but your phones always work.

when you finally decide to return
her call, you ring your mother.
I wish I could do that –
you know, shrug my mother off –
but she has too many worries:
soldiers crowd her dreams,
ghosts of the disappeared boys
knock at the doors
she never shuts,
tying countless worry-knots
and praying to the god of mercy
to watch over me because
she cannot.

the anglicized Cashmere
sounds like an old sweater –
moth-eaten, handed down –
but I promise
even if Kashmir were a garment
the shearing,
scouring, grading, sorting,
carding, spinning, weaving
was done in England.
so, this is your sweater
(no sorry, I mean your story, too) –

but Kashmir is not a ball of wool.
it is a hearty people
and the softest, most fragrant earth –
where the crown’s yellowing phantom
still exists in old files,
unburied, in broken tin trunks
into bullets, teargas,
pepper gas (god, the spices still),
pellets, prisons, and gags:
all the accoutrements of torture
and tyranny.

Jehlum is a slow-moving funeral
carrying dismembered children
whose mothers wait
for a phone call, praying 
they are just being
like your young people,
careless and alive,

but our mothers know
curfew is a glacier
growing large 
in the heart of the city,
with streets that are icy,
empty of breath
except for silenced dogs,
and soldiers, where


Ather Zia

Back to The Phone Book