RAFIQ KATHWARI / IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Winner of the 2013 Patrick Kavanagh Award
Rafiq Kathwari's poetry — often set in Kashmir — is breathtakingly beautiful, piercingly honest, wildly exotic yet universal too, as if you put Derek Walcott, Salmon Rushdie and Jhumpa Lahiri in a blender.
— Susan Shapiro
(click to view cover)
Cover art: Masood Hussain
Rafiq Kathwari is the first non-Irish recipient of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award. He has lived most of his adult life in New York, but was born, as he puts it, “a Scorpio at midnight” in the disputed Kashmir Valley. He obtained an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University and a Masters in Political and Social Science from the New School University. He divides his time between New York, Dublin and Kashmir.
In Another Country
for Agha Shahid Ali
In Kashmir, half-asleep, Mother listens to the rain.
In Manhattan, I feel her presence in the rain.
A rooster precedes the Call to Prayer at Dawn:
God is a namedropper: all names at once in the rain.
Forsythias shrivel in a glass vase on her nightstand.
On my windowsills, wilted petals, a petulance in the rain.
She must wonder when I will put on the kettle,
butter the crumpets, observe silence in the rain.
She veils her hair, offers a prayer across the oceans,
water on my hands becomes a reverence in the rain.
At Jewel House in Srinagar, Mother reshapes my ghazal.
“No enjambments!” she says as I listen in the rain.
“Rafiq,” I hear her call above the city din.
The kettle whistles: Mother’s scent in the rain.
Starting my Descent
After a bomb rips the baggage claim
I sprout wings running on the tarmac.
Single file khakis blurring smashed
gold of mustard flowers. My legs
collapse. I roar over tips of poplars, follow
the Jhelum upstream where Mother
kneeling at the river’s source tears open
a pomegranate with bare hands. “Rubies
from my dowry stolen by the in-laws.”
Her dupatta undulates and she floats away
reclined on the veil. I give chase, soaring
above the Himalayas, depression fuming
over the Pacific. I am the pallor of twilight
starting my descent. A sign rises to greet me —
The Gilded Cage For The Deranged.
“Wait,” a nurse says as I search for Mother.
“Why aren’t you already where you’re going?”