Efadul Huq

Sweetened palm juice in your hands                             frying taaler bora

You cared too much               spoke so little

Except with mother                 two sisters making each other up to survive marriage

My stomach tore in an umbilical pull

At “khala is gone, bhaiya”

As if you would always be there

keeping stoves burning, wetting hands with palm

in that subleased two room apartment at the end of the street


Remember the time you cried

when I cried after mother’s beating?

Now I am silenced at your silence.


The little child you bathed, fed, and loved dreamed

one day they would buy you, mother, and grandmother a house with big rooms where you could unchain

the obligations around your waist

laugh and love each other


Friday afternoons              your hair hanging like loose curtains

We sat around watching Shabana and Alomgir on TV

After maghrib

The mustard of muri fusing with cigarette fumes

A piercing scream

“There he goes again!”

Khalu hiding and smoking in the bathroom

So many things he hid from you –

the igloo ice cream cups he bought us children at eid fair,

the wife he married by the tea stall

So many things you hid for him –

his addictions, his infertility

Your back carried his faults without bending


“If you need to know any family history,” ammu would say,

“ask your khala. She has the memory of an elephant.

She knows your own memories better than you.”


The last time I saw you,

recorder in my bag

holding memories of this city

I hesitated to ask

Could I record you?

Because there you were

With mother, having such a good time laughing

My head resting on your lap

fingers playing, twirling my hair

I didn’t want to interrupt the paradise you manifested

in a wounded city where you would fight

the pandemic

be hospitalized

become the site of institutionalized neglect

of unnameable planetary pains

be fed biscuit softened with water

trapped in an ICU with a leaking oxygen mask

Be buried in its public graveyard

dissolve your brown skin in the soil that birthed me.


When they ask me about you, I can’t speak

What you wore that night or said hours before –

The details drowned in contended worries

about what it would cost

to keep you alive.


You lie

wrapped in white

Khalu called upon to see you for the last glimpse

Turns away sends your brother into the room instead

I can’t turn away from him turning away.


You left us just the way you lived with us

A woman not seen                   A woman not seen                 A woman not seen

Was that

the style of your strength?


An old memory               A blur of pink and white

the feel of wind

in my ears

I cannot see me in it

I only feel me in this memory

You know this memory, khalamuni

I offer this memory to be named the earth

that is you.

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