Tips of his mustache whip braided,
a turbaned invader four centuries ago
carried Persian saplings in a caravan
across the Himalayas to Kashmir.
“Our chinar will last a thousand years,”
my grandfather said as rustling boughs
reigned above the tin roof of the house
where I was born a Scorpio at midnight.
Every fall each leaf burst into a flower.
We gathered the remains of dyes
to create our rustic fuel for winter,
sprinkling water on burning leaves,
palms brushing light ashes together.
I packed fragile coal in a clay pot
matted in painted wicker, my kangri,
cloaking it between my knees
under a loose mantle, my pharun.
The ashes warmed my bag of bones.
I flew to the future of other worlds,
returning years later to see my father,
sun-withered, sipping his morning tea
alone beside an amputated trunk.
Last night I dreamt I went to Kashmir again.
I was being rowed in an embroidered shikara
to the Garden of Rajas who had vanished,
and the garden was a sea of hell; the tin roof
collapsed, our fire tree submerged, and
barrenness had become a thousand things.
by Rafiq Kathwari, Winner of the 2013 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award