She traced circles on her palm as she told
us the stories of her youth and the fold
in the fabric of history that broke
a nation, birthed two, and many a folk-
tale of love and triumph, battle and loss,
and back to the time she walked across
an intangible border in the land,
the signature of a powerful hand.
The gas heater blazed on those winter eves,
in its labored warmth we watched her weave
long narratives of happiness and grief,
with a side of peanuts and hunter beef.
Her heavy velvet quilt smelled of mothballs
and rosewater. Her plush pashmina shawls
rested thickly folded on her oak bureau –
she tapped it with her nails, a staccato
rhythm, rising and waning with her stories.
The room with its oily glow, and the breeze
stealing through the bamboo shutters, hissing,
running through our cold fingers, carrying
the rich scent of jasmines and wood polish,
gliding over us, and the wainscoting
that creaked in chorus when she stopped speaking,
told us that she had left something unsaid –
was it about life? Was it about death?