By Tabish Khair
Down the stairs of this house where plaster flakes and falls,
Through the intimate emptiness of its rooms and hall,
I hear your slow footsteps, grandmother, echo or pause
As they used to through long summer afternoons spent within
The watered-down four walls of khus and fragile drinks
Of ice, mango or lemon, the circle of water-melon crescents.
Slowly you shuffle examining each new tear in the curtains
Which will have to be mended when the first monsoon rain
Provides a respite from sun, curtails the need for shade.
Slowly on arthritic joints you move from room to room
Marking the damage of the years, evaluating how soon
The past will collapse or how long the present last.
You never need glasses to mark the contours of your house
Though you can’t see grandsons at a distance, once wore a blouse
Inside out. Nothing has changed, grandmother, no, not yet;
Though your collected steps never turn the corner into you
In a starched and white sari, the fragrance of soap around you.
And all the curtains have long been taken down.
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