Last Night I Dreamt I Was in Kashmir Again

“May our Chinar last a thousand years,”
Grandfather said, clenching a cigar.
“Chi means What, Nar: Fire: What fire!”

Rustling boughs reigned above the tin roof
of our home where I was born a Scorpio
at midnight. It’s Fall. Each leaf burst into

a flower. We gathered the remains of dyes
to create fuel for winter, sprinkling water
on burning leaves, palms brushed ashes

together, packing cinders in a clay pot
matted in bright wicker, his kangri.
“Symbol of our culture,” he said,

cloaking it between his knees under
a loose mantle, his phiran, three yards
of brown houndstooth made by Salama,

the beloved tailor at Polo View, solely
for Grandfather who said the embers
warmed his bones. “We are all bones

under the houndstooth,” my father said.
He’s sun-withered, pouring morning tea
from a samovar alone beside an amputated

trunk. What’s father doing in Kashmir,
have they annulled the Partition?
But he still parts his hair in the center.

A Himalayan glacier ruptured its bank.
Signal towers sunk, our tin roof as well.
My valley was again a lake it used to be.

I was a shikara. I was a crewel curtain
embroidering the shikara I once was.
Barrenness had become a thousand things.

By Rafiq Kathwari / @brownpundit