by Rafiq Kathwari

As arranged, they meet the first time.
He’s law student. She’s a child-bride.

She wears red— for rancor?
Head bowed, veiled little stars

In gold thread, waits on the bed
Like an arrow drawn on a bow.

Henna-touched hands, a mirror poised
On lap: A girl staring back.

If he sits beside her,
She will see him glance at her image.

In the courtyard, children sing
“Petals fall from almond trees.”

The singing could continue until
He displays a blood-stained sheet.

Footfalls on stairs, whispers,
Robes rustling, attar of roses;

His hand on her chin, her heart leaping;
He kisses her eyes closed.

“Stop. Sever the bond,” I scream,
“He’ll play possum, make you prey.”

The mirror slips from her fingers,
Bangles clash on her fleshy arms.

Rafiq Kathwari is a rebel Kashmiri-American poet who divides his time between New York, Dublin and
Srinagar. This poem is from his unpublished opus, My Mother’s Scribe.