“Listening to Abida Parveen on Loop, I Understand Why I Miss Home and Why It Must Be So”

A Poem by Tishani Doshi

January 11, 2021  By Tishani Doshi

This frugal diet of living
is getting to me

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Sometimes in the desert
the wind will blow through my shell-shaped ears
and whisper a sea song just to taunt me

If the endgame is to renounce house
mother father husband sibling succulent child
to go in search of better hummus and woollen blankets
to choose one dog and run for the border
I’m not sure this contest was made for me

What if the dog ignores me

What if he refuses water from the tin cup
I lay out for him      what if we become estranged
like Enkidu ancient wanderer        and his herd
What if my dog finds himself a family
of wolves and abandons me

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What if I felt my heart was taken out of me

I could begin each day with praise
could serve and work without once uttering
the word home    could write on multiple
clay tablets     could even practice hieroglyphs
the symbol for voyage
a torn out eye
falling man with blood streaming from head
Apis    Nandi    cosmic bull running into me

I would do it if meant I could go back
and everything would be as I left it
bread on table bowl of salt
apple tree     river and its stepping stones
returned to me

What if it was better to live with radiation
than with war     what if home was Chernobyl
what if the well was poisoned but the bird song
made up for it    what if the ghosts
of all the shot dogs went to live underground
with the worms    what if you didn’t wake up
asking did it all really happen to me

What if we were birds forced to spend
our lives in air     to mate and sleep
on the wing to rope round and round
the earth in circles and have screaming parties
what if we were never meant to settle
would you still search out my beak midair
would you still find me

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We are homesick everywhere
even when we’re home     we are empty things
that need filling
we are always lost in love     never found
please come find me

What if this minaret was like the last
tooth in my head     unsteady
and enflamed with devotion      what if I’m finally old
and ready for the plant of rejuvenation
but no one’s offering it to me

We’re at that moment in the journey
when we’ve hit a wall and the only way to scale
it is to use your voice with its inflections
and ditches       its rough grain and longing
What if god on the other side of the wall
was equally alone and in need of company
What if we replaced god with home
What if I was ready to become nothing
What if I understood there was no me

Would you carry me to this divinity


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A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi

From A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi. Used with the permission of Blood Axe Books. Copyright © 2021 by Tishani Doshi.

Tishani Doshi
Tishani Doshi
Tishani Doshi is an award-winning poet, novelist and dancer. Her most recent books are Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods (Copper Canyon Press), shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Poetry Award, and a novel, Small Days and Nights, shortlisted for the Tata Best Fiction Award and a New York Times Bestsellers Editor’s Choice. She lives in Tamil Nadu, India.

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