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Two poems by Nausheen Eusuf

  • Published at 08:44 pm December 10th, 2017
Two poems by Nausheen Eusuf

The old city

Here are the steps leading down to the lake choked with water hyacinths crowding out the lilies, and algae thick as serum. There is the rusted tube-well that once drank deep from the earth’s waters, its handle cranked like a question mark. A donkey twitches its ears on the dust path and vendors hawk their wares—hair bands, hairpins, scarves, bangles, and nail polish. We have been here before, in this old town called the city of gold, of muslin spun so fine that a six-yard sari could pass through a ring. We have walked among the arched doorways, the crumbling colonial walls, the moss, mud, and lichen, the peanuts, popcorn, and candy-floss. Somewhere nearby, a path leads to the shrine of some local saint. People pray for answers, for miracles. They leave garlands of flowers. We have asked about the eternal pantomime, about our part among these actors and props. But no answer came, and we expected none.  

Shining shoes

Weekends, growing up, I’d watch my father as he sat on a low stool in the veranda surrounded by half a dozen pairs of shoes, their laces taken out, each meekly awaiting its turn. Facing him, assembled on a spread of old newspapers: the small round tins of Kiwi shoe polish (its delicious smell), a couple of stiff-bristled horsehair brushes, an old towel, and a couple of cloth rags, one damp, one dry. One by one, he’d hook each shoe gently in his left hand, and work his right hand from toe to heel, first along one side, then turn it around for the other. Putting one down to dry, he’d pick up the next, then clean, brush, and buff until they shone like new. How loving each stroke. When my thankless teens intervened, as they will, I withdrew from him who continued to shine his shoes, and go to work, and put one foot in front of the other. That summer of my eighteenth year, as I hungered for new adventures elsewhere, I found him hunched in the half dark hall polishing a pair of leather sandals—mine. Now that he is ten years gone, I recall how quiet was his love, how mute his farewell. (Reprinted from 'Not Elegy, but Eros' with permission. The collection was published on the occasion of DLF 2017 by Bengal Lights Books)