A love-hate relationship with my mother tongue
And my mother land.
I’ve seen glimpses of heaven between the lines on my mother’s hands,
And under her feet.
I walk alongside her
As I follow a light in the sky
Like the light I see in her eyes.
When she recalls the silky flow of cardamom tea
Into clay cups her neighbours made,
When she talks about humid nights on roof tops,
And when the moon was close enough for her to reach out and touch.
This copper bowl of warm milk and rose petals she swirls her hand in to seal our destiny
overflows and overflows.
She asks me why I don’t knock on her neighbours’ doors and I tell her
That her neighbours are not my neighbours,
And I can’t find peace on the roof of a home that doesn’t have peace inside of it.
Gentle words and gentle touches,
Delicate fingers adorned in gold,
Psychedelic patterns of chartreuse carved into these laboured hands,
These cold hands that won’t ever know warmth
Because the chill of the snowy mountains our parents left will never leave us.
We find our strength from the endurance stitched into the embroidery of these Kashmiri shawls.
Beauty is in our blood.
Homelessness is in our history.
We were not created for comfort.
As my mother tongue fades and merges with yours,
These Kashmiri shawls that sit in the back of our wardrobes
Won’t fade in colour,
And their stitches will never undo.
We sleep under the same moon our mothers dipped their fingers in
And our eyes are made for the sun, too
And we will find our own neighbours
And there’ll be peace between the bricks of the homes we build ourselves.
By Halima Anwar