Traveling Back to the Heart by Hafsa Mumtaz

Traveling Back to the Heart

The metal-stiff bubbly palm of cobbles in
The terrace rebel against my calcaneus
As I saunter under the cyan sky where
Streaks of clouds frisk and fumble for vapour
Thrushes chant to the waking sun as
Their beaks osculate the wedges among the
Humid stones searching for beads of millet
The damp metal of the railing from between
Cracks and tatters of the knife-thin varnish
Feels arctic like the water under an iceberg,
And looks like the skin under a crisp scab
My eyes alight on a fungus-hued plant clad in
A not-so-exact domino of a cactus—
The needles stuck on its face remind me of
The mornings when mom would quickly stitch
A button on my uniform shirt that had been hanging loose
Like a marcescent leaf waiting to fall
The delicate thread in the needle was like a ligament
Holding our love intact for the love of a mother is infinite and matchless
These needles—pricking the green oblong balloon
Look sharp like the ramified fingers of a fork from which
My friends and I, on birthday parties, would burst birthday balloons
My eyes traverse through the mornings before school
When my mom would use a hairbrush that looked like this plant
To style my hair lovely; I was sixteen-year-old child who
Couldn’t decide which hairstyle to make for I knew none
These needles—poignant as the nib of my sketching pencils
With which I’d draw mom’s sketches on the mom’s day cards
I’d make for her, sticking on them her favorite chocolate
These needles—long as raindrops falling from the sky at midnight
When mom, my sister and I would stroll the lane
With ice-cream cones in our hands, dark umbrellas above our heads
These needles—thin like the borders of kohl around my mom’s eyes
In the mirror as I stand alone making up my face for a party
These needles—attenuated like the intricate designs of henna
On my hands on every Eid
These needles—the scarf pins I bought when I started Hijab
These needles—
A tender knock at my aperture leading to my mind
And scenting of warm feelings in my heart

by Hafsa Mumtaz

Editor’s Note: The meandering imagery at the start of this poem mirrors the way nostalgia tugs gently at the heart before arrowing sharply to those memories most poignant and stubborn.


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