Baker of Tarifa, a book based on the history of interfaith tolerance in Al Andalus (Muslim Spain), won the 2011 San Diego Book Award for poetry. She has recently won the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize and her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart prize multiple times, translated into Spanish and Urdu, and have appeared in Poetry International, Vallum, Nimrod, The Bitter Oleander, The Cortland Review, The Adirondack Review, Atlanta Review, RHINO, Journal of Postcolonial Writings, Spillway, and are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat and other places. She represents Pakistan here on UniVerse: A United Nations of Poetry, and has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence. She is a guest columnist for 3 Quarks Daily. Kohl and Chalk is her new book of poems.
Ms. Hashmi's poem Guantanamo was also posted as the Poem of the Day at the San Diego Free Press.
Passing through Peshawar
I know each poplar and willow of this town,
how telephone wires sag with the weight of belligerent crows,
the Tonga-horses wait at red lights.
I know afternoon shadows on slate verandahs,
the squeaking of a rusted see-saw,
the breaking open of a walnut in a door-hinge;
its embossed shell, a secret cracking;
the winter sun warming the mosque’s marble,
plums sold in crates on the road-side,
corn with salt and lime,
the radio at the tandoor playing
filmi songs, the whiff of Lux soap.
I almost say to you,
Look out the window,
look, look, look!
My library with beetle-eaten furniture,
my raw silk bazaar, my ancient fort!
And look, the bakery that sells pink coconut rolls!
And look, there I used to get my hair cut.
One turn and my town will once again
socket into its timeless hollow
what I remember, what I know.
The bus will pass
all these things
before you click pause on your video game.
It’s Your Marmalade House
where the goats are the sentries
Tonight’s turnip stew
while you read a masnavi
lying on a rope cot
I’m on a rickety stool
threatening to break
I break your fountain pen
wipe off the ink on your curtains
and with the celerity of a djinn
climb the roof
causing dusty pigeons to flutter
From here I see kites teasing
I see our sentries
Look how my suddenness
has tripped time itself
for the house
twenty years ago when you died
A guard forces you to urinate on yourself
Another barks out louder than his dog
the names of your sisters
who live in the delicate nest
of a ruby-throated hummingbird
Each will be a skeleton he says
Was there someone who gave you
seven almonds for memory,
a teaspoon of honey every morning?
Cardamom tea before bed?
Someone who starched your shirts
in rice water, then ironed them?
Held your chin
To say the send-off prayer
You’re tied to a metal coil
is a burnt wire.