Complex Roots

Heer CheemaMay 3, 2017

There are shadows under her eyes
They have been there a while,
I seem to notice them more and more—growing numb where I lie.
It is a thing we have in common, you see?
This that I forget,
This that must not be.

A woman spins to the stranger’s tune.

Bald patches on her head—
Set her in reverse
Suspend her between the banks of the Chenab and Lethe
Turning her n o m a d,
Where she is left surrounded by recoiling vines and fading bamboo trees.

The drums beat and sometimes she is and other times she is not.

Yes, cut down the branches before I have started to climb!
Oh, I am stranded between familiar fingers and vacant eyes.
I find myself planting my feet on hardened cement,
Long past my time to leave a mark.
I stomp down! . . . Only to raise dust into dust into more dust.

There are two in this dance, one I know and the other I do not.

She hugs weakly; uncertainty and resilience mingle in the fissures of her mouth.
Lines mark her face,
A furrow,
A smile—
Defiant gestures forming gardens of their own even as this one withers.
For my Nani has always been a force of nature
And though I do not know all the women that dance before the fire—
Limbs heavy with life, unraveling time as they go round and round together—
They are all her

And I will know them when gardens are arid wastelands
I will know them like the soil beneath my feet, ever present
Ever present.

Heer Cheema is a student at Lahore Grammar School, and she is currently in the 12th grade. She enjoys reading and writing poetry. Her favorite poets include A.E. Houseman and Vikram Seth.