A Furious Tide
My mother’s voice was calm, not dipped in raging water, when
she spoke to me on the phone moments after death un-hugged
her during a flood. Her tender breath rose
The next minute her voice wavered in a vibrato, unsettled, perplexed.
It ran back in rocky water, floating, like balloon heads of submerged people
oddly cocked. By then, of course, she’d begun to reminisce.
Trapped for four days at her brother’s submerged house in Kashmir, with
the younger daughter and other relatives’ escaping the flood. She described the
experience to me on the other side of the world:
The water rose, drowning the first few steps of the third floor.
Before it began soaring further up, I cradled your sister, though
24, like a baby, in my arms. We shall die soon, I whispered in her
ear. Close your eyes, let us slip away in our sleep, let raging
water wash us away in our sleep. It will be least painful.
The torrential rain swelled the River Jhelum, the raging water tearing through its banks,
unsettled, perplexed. Suddenly, hundreds of people, dipped in raging water, the
valley soaked into streams of nothingness.
I dealt with the four days like surviving a life without a trickle of water, half
drowned, in the house’s third floor. Through the window, I saw yellow
inflatable rings around people’s necks, floating. Some were
bare-necked and grasping tree trunks. A woman in a blue plastic
water tank hugged her arms around its mouth.
The water contained debris, broken pieces of houses, animal carcasses and some dead bodies. “Help, help, I screamed out the window, at the rescue team.” They never looked up.
At this point, I saw my past life as in a dream. My childhood
at my parents’ house in Kashmir. The beautiful red brick house
stood once on the parched land, among a warren of similar surrounding houses.
The hand-crafted, black iron-gate and its gold rims, the flowering
vines of evergreen trees. My mother coiling the green grape vines
around the top, crescent-like.
But I found myself in my Texas apartment, the mother’s voice becoming clearer.
I saw Ganesha’s photo
a friend had just posted, on Facebook. Ganesha sat, crossed
legged, beside high rise minarets of the temple, half immersed
in raging water.
The Hindu God’s right hand, palm facing out, glowed
His colossal gold coronet crown came drifting toward me.
I saw in it my mother’s crescent-like grape vine wreath
around the iron-gate, the green thriving in gold streaks of the crown.
My parent’s house in Kashmir was calm, not dipped in raging
water, not in furious tide.
A pair of
coal hinged frame
glossed over my dark circles.
The unprescribed mirrors
of tender twitches
The piercing brushes of reflection.
A shade of beard
loosely clung to his smooth
If just I could caress in my hand.
The tasseled out residual fleck
The hard knuckle dabs over his closed eye lids
glasses on table, immersed in thoughts–
the conversations, their merger with time.
I wished a moment’s clock–
The soulful melding
locked in time
hands swearing continuity.
Yes, if just.
Huma Sheikh was born in Kashmir who later came to the United States where she received multiple degrees in creative writing, English literature, journalism and communication studies. She has taught writing and literature classes at University of South Dakota and Texas A&M University. Her chapbook is forthcoming and her first book is in progress.