Madiha Arsalan

Damask waterfalls cascaded down
the windows
to a jigsaw puzzle
floor of wooden blocks

that kept me busy on melting summer afternoons.
Outside, the challi waala1 hailed
for us to come out and buy his
sand-baked
cobs of
amber.

I walked out to the jharoka2
and looked down at my grandfather on his wicker charpoy3,
shelling green peas
into a silver bowl that tossed

the Indian sun back at me,
wrapped in a starched dhoti4
which he favored over the suits
that were choking

inside the many closets
of this haveli5,
one of several that he gave away.

He pointed at the clouds
and told me they were
ras gullas6 that day.

That was the summer he taught me

joy

is learning how to sleep under
a shimmering patchwork comforter
of sky.

That was before
I learned that I still carry the ache of a Bhangra beat7
inside the throbbing dhol8 of my chest.

Notes:
1. Literally means “one who sells corn.”
2. An Indian/Pakistani-style balcony.
3. A bed used especially in India consisting of a frame strung with wicker or thick cotton tapes.
4. Sarong-like garment worn by Indian/Pakistani men.
5. Indian/Pakistani-style mansion.
6. Indian/Pakistani confection made of milk solid balls boiled in cardamom-flavored syrup.
7. Indian/Pakistani drumbeats that originated in the province of Punjab.
8. Indian/Pakistani-style two-sided drum.

“Dhol” was published in the 2013 edition of The Labletter.

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