Poetry | ‘Casual Leave’ by Kashaf Ali | Issue 37 (Jan, 2021)

In June, midsummer melts into monsoon, the rain
beats its fists on the door, knots its hands in your stomach
floods your little room until the mahogany bed

In June, you almost die on your way home from work
it takes three hours to cover five miles of tar, goat shit, infrastructural
failure. inside, a cracked roof (a strange-shaped mouth), debris, a few dazed insects;
you have come home, panting, when the clock has let you,
to find your home is gone.

In June, a man axes his wife to death, nine men rape a woman
in front of her children. A cashier at the bank tracks down your number, leaving
a string of hungry messages. On the corner of the street, a car runs over a small dog
white with brown spots and a lolling tongue. You carry him to the vet, hands shaking,
where he dies.

In June, you take a cab to your mother’s house, her hands are
taped in wrinkles; her arm is a soft black-pink where it burnt down to the bone
when you were four years old. She has made biryani for twenty since, fluffed out, scented,
cinnamon-laden, long-riced, bubbling with tomato paste and bitter, glorious onion.
But you haven’t.

Your mother and her mother have not been
women who give up, unlike you.

In June, it is three years since you have come back
to your country, hoping you could change it, hoping you could change something, anything,
you have come back to your country, drunk on middle-class idealism,
to find you need more leaves.

Kashaf Ali is a Fulbright Scholar, and a graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She currently lives in Karachi, Pakistan, where she divides her time between managing education systems, teaching sociological thinking, and writing not-so-fictional fiction.

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