The Old City

By NAUSHEEN EUSUF

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.

 

Nausheen Eusuf is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Boston University. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Scholar, PN Review, Southwest Review, Salmagundi, Literary Imagination, and other journals. Her first full-length collection, titled Not Elegy, But Eros, is forthcoming from NYQ Books.

 

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Madeline RuoffThe Old City

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