A Nostalgist’s Map of America
After Agha Shahid Ali
Here she learns, just means the air standing still.
She can’t remember her way to the bar,
the roads are parched sewers, the walls lie
swollen with rain that refuses to visit.
She requests another room; the authorities are not pleased,
this is the second appeal since Tuesday, eighth one this year.
Keys don’t grow
on trees they say but that’s all they do
Her favourite city was the woman before this.
Before there was speech, there was desire, and before
desire could be named, there were women and even before
she began to call them home, she named herself
If you say you’re not in love enough times, does it spurt
buildings of lies and then, if you make your bed but through
some terrible mistake, lie in it one last time, you were only saying
goodbye, can you curse your spit, pretend it doesn’t exist, this dry
mouth needing her moist lips.
It’s been a long drought
Her mouth becomes a mountain becomes a roar becomes
a room of one’s own full of life and defiance, begins
to speak—It is impossible to live here I cannot
They still forget her name sometimes. Her skin shrivels up
to her last hope and the keeper of the dead hotel cried
“What is wrong now, we thought you wanted to be here.
Officer, remove her from the premises, she doesn’t
belong here; here is where everything can be still
air” and she doesn’t dare to deliberate even until finally, she is
outside, it’s hot again, her blood is not frozen and then,
Stanza 6, Line 2: Taken from Shahid’s poem The Keeper of the Dead Hotel in
A Nostalgist’s Map of America.
Sreshtha Sen is a writer and poet from New Delhi, India. She studied Literatures in English from Delhi University and is currently completing her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College.