Book House The Lead

“Last Night I Dreamt I Was in Kashmir Again”: Nostalgia meets Imagery in Rafiq Kathwari’s poem

Author Rafiq Kathwari
  • Rafiq Kathwari is the first non-Irish recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. His winning poetry collection, “In Another Country”, was published by Doire Press.

  • The book “My Mother’s Scribe” by Rafiq Kathwari tells the story of his mother, Maryam, who started losing her mind during the Partition of India. His mother’s condition worsened when, after 40 years of marriage, his father remarried, and both his mother and the new wife lived under the same roof.

  • Many poems in the book, set in Kashmir, are from the view of her young son, who serves as his mother’s scribe as she writes to the ‘Prime Ministers of the World’, airing her aspirations. Together, mother and son, limn an intriguing poetic journey – from the snow-capped Himalayas of Kashmir to the terraced grounds of the Hebrew Home in The Bronx.

  • The poem “Last Night I Dreamt I Was in Kashmir Again” has been excerpted from the book “My Mother’s Scribe”. Read the poem below.

Last Night I Dreamt I Was in Kashmir Again

‘May our chinar tree 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. In autumn 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

intertwined in bright wicker, his kangri.

‘A 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,

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 was 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.

The valley was again a lake it used to be.

I was a shikara I was rowing. I was

crewel curtains adorning the shikara I was

moments ago. I was a signal tower collapsed.

Barrenness had become a thousand things.

Excerpted with permission from My Mother’s Scribe: Poems and Tales, Rafiq Kathwari, Yoda Press. Read more about the book here and buy it here.


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