Afterlife (Jaipur, 2008)

Chloe Martinez

“Agar Firdaus bar roy-e zamin ast,

hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast.”

          — couplet by Amir Khusrao

          inscribed on the tomb of the

          Mughal Emperor Babur, Kabul


If there is a paradise

we arrived, as if at the far bank

of a river, and sat on a cool verandah

upstairs among leaves and

more shady leaves

                                         on earth,

it’s not mango season, they keep telling us,

so I settle for mosambi, sweet lime, for now.

Every day I drink half, leave the rest

for you to finish

It is this,

our hotel used to be a haveli; the family

still lives in one wing, the women

veiled like proper Rajputs, like

ghosts, sweeping the courtyard

                         it is this,

we have no family here, observe no holidays,

and I have given up my phone. Our

life back home takes on the warm

glow, the softened edges of myth

                                              it is this.

you say you don’t like graveyards, tombs,

even beautiful ones, but here we walk

among them and you in a cloud of parakeets

forget about death

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