The fabled place that existed in the olden days
of childhood and grandparents.
My little feet scurried away with a heavy heart
—And the feet really do have one,
hence the heaviness, the hesitation, the tumble—
from the ring of hibiscus and sting nettles,
from their stealthy kisses on the hand;
to my grandmother:
The headscarf of her favourite colour
—in my memory inextricably overlapping—
the highland green of the living
with the stone moss of the dead—
tied at the back of her head,
like much of her life,
into a knot of worries;
wiping away my tears with it…
daubing my hand with clay…
giving my pain a proper burial,
all with a headstone and a riot of daffodils.
It’s not as if I was naive
—which I was—
that I kept calling out for Grandfather
even as my fever dreams
kept crashing upon me like stale waves.
If he could explain why the floor under me
It’d be okay.
It was he after all who’d taught me
the Archimedes’ principle
—how to stay afloat,
with his shaving kit and a bowl full of lathery water.
It was much later in life, though,
explanations can render things meaningless.
So what of it, if
James Parkinson had described it in
An Essay on the Shaking Palsy?
Two hundred years later,
why did it still hurt
when my grandfather couldn’t remember my name?
*Matamaal: the Kashmiri word for maternal grandparents’ home, endearingly called as such.