by Zara Raheem
Dulhan (Indian Bride)
My mother’s house is no longer my home;
My knuckles cry out with every knock on the door.
Wooden floorboards which knew the curves of my sole,
Now creak in unfamiliar places
Beneath my mehndi’d feet.
“No, no. Please sit. I’ll get it,” my mother insists.
The voice that once dripped with the sound of my name
Greets me now with the formalities of an honored guest.
Offering me water on the same tray on which I used to serve
While I swallow my craving for intimacy and warmth.
The comfort of her cooking is masked by the foreign aroma of small talk and chatter.
My father sits across the table
Hiding behind creases which were once not there.
My bedroom remains untouched;
Closets are emptied; the bed still made.
Lying on my pillow scented with dust
Tossing and turning;
Emotions are flooding
Filling up spaces that are no longer my own.
They say a daughter only belongs to her parents until her wedding day.
The red on my hands barely faded
I now know these words to be true.
The illusion of freedom comes at a cost.
Just follow the river of brown blood
Trailing across the villages of Punjab,
Soaking into the mountains of Bengal,
Causing floods through the progressive streets of Lahore.
The current flow, strong
The cries become our song
Never stopping until our nation is split in two.
Silent footsteps flee the comfort of home
To end up in foreign lands claiming to be their own.
The need for “purity”
Has caused this lunacy
Creating enemies from friends
Neighbors become strangers
In the blink of an eye.
Riots burn down the history of our past
Leaving blankets of ash over our ancestral soil.
And once it’s all over
The only freedom truly left,
Is the sour stench of dead bodies
Wafting victoriously across our once united land.