“After a deadly aerial engagement, a cup of tea” by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Past the news of war, you sleep in a litter of cacophony
knowing the dead will forever bind their miasma to your hair

knot their shrouds to every hook in the house,
hem the sound of sirens to your head

Between tonight’s brocade sky, inked textile of tomorrow,
and tomorrow, there will be an hour of war, creeping like a reptile

across the fields where two countries grow rice with their backs
to each other and fly kites this time of the year to welcome spring

The sort of night an emperor could create from the shudder of mortality
a marble mausoleum to house his love after death— moonbeams

sewing the lips of loss, light swirling through filigrees, carved tulips and fruit buds,
turning time to flesh — it is early spring, you too feel a tingle in your fingertips,

tremble a moment like a Shalimar cypress, but the masonry of your body
is recalled when warplanes approach, when all around you are loved ones

asleep, and what the newscasters will later call aerial engagement
has been the chase all along— the flute song in your dream chased

by steam engines, swooped up by MiG-21s, chased by surface-to-air missiles
The air as sharp, the trees as majestic this side of the border, the pilot

of the downed plane asks hysterically which country he is in. Which way
should he run? As a prisoner of war, he is recorded saying, between sips

of tea, the officers of the Pakistani Army are thorough gentlemen.
He is nervous. The cup he holds is Raj-white, with a pale green bough,

vaguely Mughal in its vegetal flourish. The temperature in Islamabad is 11 degrees
Celsius, in Delhi it is 16. Yellow trumpet daffodils are blooming. It is early spring.

After a deadly aerial engagement, a cup of tea is © Shadab Zeest Hashmi


Read more here: A Glass of Tea, a View of the Atlas by Shadab Zeest Hashmi


Shadab Zeest Hashmi is the author of poetry collections Kohl, Chalk and Baker of Tarifa. Her latest work, Ghazal Cosmopolitan has been praised by poet Marilyn Hacker as “a marvelous interweaving of poetry, scholarship, literary criticism and memoir.” Winner of the San Diego Book Award for poetry, the Nazim Hikmet Prize and multiple Pushcart nominations. Zeest Hashmi’s poetry has been translated into Spanish and Urdu, and has appeared in anthologies and journals worldwide, most recently in Prairie Schooner, World Literature Today, Mudlark, Vallum, POEM, The Adirondack Review, Spillway, Wasafiri, Asymptote and McSweeney’s latest anthology In the Shape of a Human Body I am Visiting the Earth. She has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence and her work has been included in the Language Arts curriculum for grades 7-12 (Asian American and Pacific Islander women poets) as well as college courses in Creative Writing and the Humanities.

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