Poem introduction

This is one of two excerpts from a long single poem in twenty parts, 'At the Time of Partition'. My grandmother, a widow, made the journey with, initially, five of her children, from Ludhiana in India, to Lahore, in the newly created Pakistan. Her eldest son, Ute, a young man who suffered brain damage as a result of a childhood accident, disappeared at that time, never to be found again: the fate of many vulnerable adults and children. The line of partition was drawn up so arbitrarily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, it was often referred to as the 'Radcliffe Line.'

At the Time of Partition (extract 1)

1. The Line

A line so delicate a sparrow might have
picked it up in its beak.

Not an artist’s line, or a line of writing.

A line between birth and non-being.
A line that would mean death for so many.

The land itself at its calmest and most dignified
yielded to the line, lay still –

it didn’t know what was coming.

India – and ‘Pakistan’:
the countries required their boundaries

as the thirsty needed water,
the beggars their begging bowls.

The line was its own religion,
it seemed to have its own God.

It sliced through a village, cut a house in half.
Where to place it in all of reality?


from At the Time of Partition (Bloodaxe, 2013) © Moniza Alvi 2013, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

Moniza Alvi Downloads

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

£0.89

2I Was Raised in a Glove Compartment

£0.89

3Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan

£0.89

4Arrival 1946

£0.89

5The Country at My Shoulder

£0.89

6The Sari

£0.89

7Map of India

£0.89

8Domain

No preview avaialable.£0.89

9And If

£0.89

10The Wedding

£0.89

11An Unknown Girl

£0.89

12Carrying My Wife

£0.89

13All Fours

£0.89

14My Wife's Problem

£0.89

15Living Alone

£0.89

16An April Walk

£0.89

17Blood

£0.89

18Without Us

£0.89

19Bat

£0.89

20Escape

£0.89

21Great and Small

£0.89

22Do They Miss Us

£0.89

23Yes

£0.89

24Nothing

£0.89

25Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

£0.89

26How the World Split in Two

£0.89

27How the Sky Got a Hole in It

£0.89

28How the Words Feared the Mouth

£0.89

29How Yesterday Joined Today and Tomorrow

£0.89

30How the Stone Found Its Voice

£0.89

31Rural Scene

£0.89

32Shift

£0.89

33Her Symptoms

£0.89

34Memory Memory

£0.89

35In Response

£0.89

36The Sleeping Wound

£0.89

37Mermaid

£0.89

38Hanging

£0.89

39A Gift

£0.89

40Upholding the 'I'

£0.89

42King Agenor

£0.89

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

£0.89

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

£0.89