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In Dry Places

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Ahmed Rashid

The poem first appeared in The Aleph Review, Vol. 2 (2018).

Portrait of the poet by Sarah Sabina Malik

The certainty of death in dry places

Leaving—I see my grandmother

For what must be the last time.

Sit down before you go. There is

An old silence in the damp room

That sticks to you; we speak as loud

As ants do. Kiss her softly, hold the skin

Together from flaking like plaster.

She smells of smooth wet pine.

Her daughters move around their mother’s

White sari. Lily of the valley,

These children now rolling

Into their fifties like jellies,

Obliterate the view for a moment.

But just in case she flops now,

I will spread an open book on her spreading lap.

She has tunneled through all

The vast words—pity, grief, love,

Despair, worked in them, around them,

Like a potter who knows his wheel.

Now she slides into the cast so well.

A fuse has blown in the old house.


Ahmed Rashid is a journalist, writer and author of several best-selling books on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, which have been translated into over 40 languages and awarded numerous prizes around the world. He started writing poetry when he was still a teenager in London and Lahore in the 1960s and was mentored by Taufiq Rafat and Kaleem Omar.

About the featured artist: Trained as a miniature painter at the NCA, where she graduated with an honours merit award, Sarah Sabina Malik has explored various mediums, studying graphic design in Italy, dabbling in interior décor and, more recently, murals and oil on canvas. Alongside her own practice, she has also taught drawing and painting to graduate-level students at some of the most esteemed arts institutions of Pakistan. Currently on hiatus while she devotes most of her time to motherhood in London, she chooses quick pencil sketches and pottery painting to capture scenes from her life and surroundings. This loving portrait depicts her father-in-law, Ahmed Rashid, with his dog.


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