Breath in a Box

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

On the M2 bus to the East side, a man heaves as he steps in with his walker.

I have yet to open the box that has the Sufi nai you brought me.

When the man attempts to sit down, he has trouble balancing.

I have yet to open that box by my bedside. It's between your Rubik's cube and the shawl printed with Attar's verses from "the conference of the birds."

A woman, obese and weak, uses all the strength in her two arms to steady him. Both the man and the woman are out of breath as they sit down. They are not related.

I have yet to open the box you bought at a layover in Istanbul, nearly missing your flight.

The woman is of a different race and generation than the man. Both have a drizzle of sudden summer rain on their shoulders, as have I. And another passenger's library books.

The nai in the box is the kind of flute Rumi praises. It's made of pockmarked reed.

Outside the museum, the woman who gives small crumbs of her sesame bread to the sparrows, has her back to the man with the camera.

The reed bed has made the flute an emissary of its longing.

The camera lens must see the slightest scar of the sparrow. It is big enough to make a nest in.