Revolution: Gurgaon

Travelers are tremendous cowards
Running to avoid
A familiar place transformed.
A loss, sometimes
But sometimes a twisted gain
As the world goes on piling up
Its achievements
Glittering glass and steel islands of
Stolen progress.
Climate-controlled, multinational
Progress.

My view
From the hotel
Was of a place called Palm Springs.
Two blue skyscrapers.
No water in sight.

Despite the urge to flee
Some remain in the dry canals
In the borderlands of past and future.
Some choose not to leave
Others are left, but all
Fill these margins
With rang-o-boo,
Color and smell.
Movement.
Trouble.
Joy.

Us travelers,
Ghosts of privilege
Must simply watch
To see if those towers will come down.

 

Fortitude: Jodhpur

For Kaifi Azmi

What is the power of Rajput kings
But to reveal the tender nature of men.
Fort walls and polished steel
A backdrop to our cracked lips, our reddened skin.
You and I cross the city with sand-filled hair.
Mistaken, stumbling, our words imperfect and untimely
While the stone glows like it promises forever.
The reminder of eternity, our own brevity.

But even then I know that each grain of sand in each brick
Holds its place only through the continued irrigation
Of sweat, like the bead that travels down your back
Astonishing, miraculous and unpredictable.
And in following its path from nape to node
I feel eternity of a different kind
One that flows and shifts, colors this dawn and this day
And sighs, unseen, into night.

 

Cycle

The movements fuse together
My feet pressed to the pedals
Always half-breathless.
Though in Saint Paul
The frame is lighter,
In Lucknow the posture was easier.
Less aerodynamic.

There also I flowed with traffic
Following its pools and eddies
Different from this semi-conscious order
Every so often betrayed by a screech of tires:
“I just didn’t see you.”

I glide past a flattened squirrel
Guts so red
I thought they were pomegranate seeds
And I remember that mother-dog
In Hazarat Ganj
Teats hanging low and fangs frothing
As she stood over the corpse of a pup
Letting no cars pass.

And I remember
“developed” or “developing”
That order and chaos
Nip at one another’s heels
And the only constant
Is that the smallest often suffer most.

 

Emily A. Durham

Emily A. Durham is a graduate student of Asian Languages and Literatures a at the University of Minnesota. She lived in Lucknow and studied Urdu there, during which time she was introduced to the prose and poetry of writers such as Ismat Chughtai, Sahir Ludhianvi, and Kaifi Azmi. She writes and reads from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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