Poem introduction

I fantasise here about what it might have been like to have been born in Pakistan. I grew up in Hatfield, which didn't seem very multicultural in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

The Sari

Inside my mother
I peered through a glass porthole.
The world beyond was hot and brown.

They were all looking in on me –
Father, Grandmother,
the cook’s boy, the sweeper-girl,
the bullock with the sharp
shoulderblades,
the local politicians.

My English grandmother
took a telescope
and gazed across continents.

All the people unravelled a sari.
It stretched from Lahore to Hyderabad,
wavered across the Arabian Sea,
shot through with stars,
fluttering with sparrows and quails.
They threaded it with roads,
undulations of land.

Eventually
they wrapped and wrapped me in it
whispering Your body is your country.


from Split Word: Poems 1990-2005 (Bloodaxe, 2008), © Moniza Alvi 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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Recordings

Moniza Alvi Downloads

1I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miró

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2I Was Raised in a Glove Compartment

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3Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan

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4Arrival 1946

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5The Country at My Shoulder

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6The Sari

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7Map of India

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8Domain

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9And If

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10The Wedding

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11An Unknown Girl

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12Carrying My Wife

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13All Fours

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14My Wife's Problem

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15Living Alone

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16An April Walk

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17Blood

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18Without Us

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19Bat

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20Escape

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21Great and Small

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22Do They Miss Us

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23Yes

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24Nothing

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25Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

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26How the World Split in Two

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27How the Sky Got a Hole in It

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28How the Words Feared the Mouth

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29How Yesterday Joined Today and Tomorrow

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30How the Stone Found Its Voice

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31Rural Scene

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32Shift

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33Her Symptoms

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34Memory Memory

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35In Response

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36The Sleeping Wound

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37Mermaid

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38Hanging

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39A Gift

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40Upholding the 'I'

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42King Agenor

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43from 'At the Time of Partition' - The Line

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44from 'At the Time of Partition' - And Now

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