First published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017). The poem and artwork have been curated for the website by Digital Guest Editor, Alainah Aamir.
We would never find the place
but suddenly I’d be back in the same evening,
buying bread and tomatoes on streets
where it hadn’t rained for four months—
dust searing the voices of the rickshaw drivers,
the grapes rusty and warm, yet even
on those nights that I hadn’t died many times over
to live through, when for once no doubts folded and
unfolded themselves, worn at the creases, and you
were in the kitchen opening a window, shutting the fridge,
while I fixed on all the things money can’t buy
—even those nights we couldn’t scratch ourselves into rock
or plant a tree, time didn’t fit rooms and memory
wouldn’t peel like an onion’s skin, yet I still knew that
through our dreams any paradise could pass—
say the green burial mounds outside Uppsala,
say the brown hotel room in Kollam.
The longing to nail down a place
became a way of finding a reason to drift:
we are our own geography, and talk must do and kisses;
towns are no more than their photographs, and home
is just the space of a table between two chairs.
Anjum Hasan is an Indian poet and novelist. Street on the Hill (Sahitya Akademi, 2006) was her debut collection of poems. Her debut novel Lunatic in My Head (Zubaan-Penguin, 2007) was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2007. Her second novel, titled Neti, Neti (Roli Books, 2009), was longlisted for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010. Her short story collection Difficult Pleasures (Penguin/Viking, 2012) was shortlisted for The Hindu Literary Prize. She has also contributed poems, articles and short stories to various national and international publications.
Fatima Raheel recently graduated from NCA, majoring in printmaking. Her visual vocabulary consists of a high contrast, graphic/illustrative style which she combines with the medium of lino and woodcut to bring forth a narrative that speaks of a childhood filled with adventure and triumph, underlying with feelings of loneliness and displacement.