Barishal, Bangladesh during the Partition of India, 1947
It is monsoon when they part,
when the water lilies sprout like tiles,
painting mosaics of rose and jade beneath
my grandmother’s feet. She sings prayers, words
erupting like gasps under her breath.
Stretching her veil up and over, scouring the market,
venerating the rain—sheets of glass, particles
reflecting the sweet limes heaped
on each other in pyramids—she recalls
the emerald beads her sister gave her
before her parting, searches her neck for their indent.
She bows to choose a lime as a child
wrenches a lily from the water. Droplets explode,
drench my grandmother’s veil, clasped
to her face, and she drowns in a cry—remembering
it was monsoon when her sister parted,
wrested from fragile arms—and then a wail.
Up at her the child stares, turns to leave, face streaked
with glassy rain—my grandmother recalls
her sister’s voice, in fragments, remnants
of mosaics—and under her breath she whispers
Come back, come back. But
the lilies float on, apart.