Memories get hazy
even recounting doesn't help
I need to look at pictures
or listen to music to remember
and sometimes walking through narrow lanes of my town
a sudden perfume escaping from a window
halts my steps and I am transported
to my childhood years.
What other memories live behind the barred doors?
I hear the girl next door calling out;
I do not answer because her stern father
is watching from the balcony.
Many scents mingle in the courtyard,
the autumn breeze touches lightly on my skin.
Women are pounding grain in the giant mortar,
our hen is guarding her brood
from the mean street mongrel.
And now we glide through a water passage
over pink lilies, reeds, and rushes
against the curtain of sleek houseboats
moored to banks with soft green grass
with willow trees guarding the edge of water
and giant chinars shading higher ground.
Blue kingfishers flash across water
and yellow orioles dart from tree to tree
and now we pass a quince orchard
with blossoms of delicate pink
and a field of brilliant yellow mustard.
We stop at a clearing
where a girl is selling honey
and as we talk the sounds of cows and calves
sheep and lambs
geese and gosling
ducks and duckling
chicken and chicks
children singing tables from a canalside school
men coughing on their hookahs
The best paradise
is the paradise we are exiled from.