What I remember most about
My Nani were her sea-green eyes,
Like pieces of mottled Herati glass,
Eyes like blasted sand and fused
Quartz and dead plants that
Caught the flame of sunlight
On the water. Uncommon, that
Particular shade of bluish-green in
A region of mostly earthy,
Her humor, brittle, parched,
Snapped underfoot like twigs or
Crackled like fallen leaves, rose and
Fell with the gusts, flamed against
The drab and non-descript. How many
Times she burnished when animated
By laughter, sarcasm, or idea.
In the end, when age and illness
Burned her skin, drew bones
Out of her flesh, when
She lay as fragile as a child
Upon my lap, and I bound Her to me tightly, the last I saw
Those sea-green eyes,
There she gazes, resolute, from the
Yellowed-grey of that photograph that
Rests on my nightstand. Just sixteen,
Brows furrowed, she refuses to
Engage. She is still unlived, hopeful.
After all, for her to turn and see me now
Is acknowledgement that life has passed.
10th December 2020
Shahbano Bilgrami is a published poet, writer and freelance editor whose debut novel, Without Dreams, was long listed for the Inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize in 2007. Her second novel, Those Children (HarperCollins, 2017; HarperCollins 360, 2018), was long listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Fiction in 2017. An excerpt was included in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017). Born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Shahbano was educated in Canada, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. Shahbano is both an avid reader and book reviewer. Her articles have been published in print magazines as well as online and she has written and edited extensively for children. She has also participated in a number of literary festivals including the Jaipur Literature Festival, KLF, the Alchemy Festival, and the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival. She is currently working on her third novel and is also involved in a number of projects for young readers, including The Munna Man and Baby Lady Series (Oxford 2017) and Starlight Graded English Readers for Lightstone Publishers. You can see her work at www.shahbanobilgrami.com as well as on Instagram @authorshahbanobilgrami.