A Poem



She circles the room,
the two men cross-legged
on woven flowers,

her kohl-lined eyes downcast
to the fringe
of their shining loafers

the fluted foot
of a samovar, henna
petals on her toes.

“Look, my child has no flaws,
no need to give ear to rumors,”
her father tells the intended

who’s in Srinagar for the viewing
months before the wedding.

Intended father-in-law
shakes her father’s hand

He gives her filigreed silver
wedged heels with pointed tips
too big for the girl she was

bunions not yet formed.

–March 1938

For my grandfathers’, experts des objects d’ art.


Again I ease her palm into mine
We stroll on the beach

Frangipani petals
Rushlight of dusk

Inks of her sarong
My bruised jeans

Gods on horses
Spark the horizon

It’s a sign I know
What sign?

I want you to be my wife
Ask me again—she jolts me

And again her gritty palm is mine
Bending a knee I ask

Will every flower from Kenya
to Kashmir bloom?

–March 1998

For Tabish Din, again.

by Rafiq Kathwari, guest poet at 3 Quarks Daily