Poem introduction

A second excerpt from the long poem, 'At the time of Partition'. My Muslim grandmother and her family crossed into Pakistan. They were eventually rehoused in Lahore, a house vacated by a Hindu or Sikh family, who would have made the crossing in the other direction. Ute, her son, is still missing.

At the Time of Partition (extract 2)

15. And Now?

Brother, brother,

even brother-in-England,

sister, sister, sister,

             mother –

the family
          began
                     to reconfigure

around an absence,
the ripeness
                         of his loss.

Ripe, as if
          some fruit

must fall,

but hour by hour,
            month by month

no fruit fell.
*

No fruit,
but the offer of a house.

Or part of one. Not like for like –
the building shared,

no veranda, no garden with hibiscus
in a border, no almond trees.

A house, neither old nor new,
tucked away behind the bazaar,

leaning into a yellow courtyard,
its entrance on a narrow lane.

Amma, this will do! Acha... acha...
Yes...yes...This will do...

*

They moved like trespassers
through the rooms of orphaned furniture,

claimed the chests of drawers
and the shelves of almirahs,

removed saris and underskirts,
sleeveless pullovers, shirts, salwars,

and replaced them with their own,
tried all the beds (were they softer, harder?)

inspected the kitchen, the bags
of lentils, flour, opened and unopened,

the tava in place on the stove
waiting for the moons of roti,

and they noted in the darkened living-room
the number and position of chairs.

Everything as it was

when a family, mirroring their own
had grasped the future – and fled.


from At the Time of Partition (Bloodaxe, 2013) © Moniza Alvi 2013, 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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