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.
Support Ethical Journalism. Support The Dispatch
The Dispatch is a sincere effort in ethical journalism. Truth, Accuracy, Independence, Fairness, Impartiality, Humanity and Accountability are key elements of our editorial policy. But we are still not able to generate great stories, because we don’t have adequate resources. As more and more media falls into corporate and political control, informed citizens across the world are funding independent journalism initiatives. Here is your chance to support your local media startup and help independent journalism survive. Click the link below to make a payment of your choice and be a stakeholder in public spirited journalism