Uptown Girls


By Rakhshan Rizwan

Her chaar diwari was her castle but she dug anyway, every night
with a silver wishbone, she carved a street and then

a courtyard lined with bougainvillea and sweet peas, and between
meals, mended shirts, milk-stained laundry and garden

parties, she dug herself a meshwork of perfumed streets and alleys,
and fragrant tea-houses, and she dug herself a citadel and a fortified

haveli, and she dug for herself a library and golden manuscripts,
and a mustard field that turned into a mango orchard in the

summer months, and one August she found other streets connected
to her own, as other women with pestles emerged from behind,

the sweet peas, the mustard and the havelis, and together they dug
a marketplace, and a stadium, and they dug up songs and stories

to fill the lonely nights, and they dug a highway that reached all the way
to the sea, and they dug rafters, minarets and granaries, and they dug

stables and bazaars, and they dug their dreams and their words,
and they dug another city, with haunts, and places to sleep,

and they dug their inner maps, their geographies and they
imprinted their own plans onto the earth,

and they dug suburbs and slow days and red-brick houses,
and they dug for themselves new limbs, new skins, and they

dug bicycles and unmetalled roads—pakdandis
between the mountains, and trampled-on paths,

in the forest, and they dug for themselves streams,
and glades and they dug for themselves dhabas that exuded

the cardamom scent of pulau and halwa, and they dug
for themselves idle corners, until they were ready to

descend into the annals of another city. Over time their skin became
the color of snow, their eyes turned ruby-red, they began to peel paisleys

off their chests and to stretch their bones like eagles that plunge
into burnt canyons, they become pale, almost fluorescent, as they learned

to forget those other cities, those other streets, unlearned those
other words.


Rakhshan Rizwan  is currently a PhD candidate at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Her poems have appeared in Blue Lyra Review, aaduna, The Missing Slate, Postcolonial Text and elsewhere. Her poetry pamphlet is forthcoming from The Emma Press (July, 2017).