pakistani sandals

Mama stepped off the plane that first time
with nothing but a shawl and sequined slippers
and her ankle fell into a foot of snow.
She says the cold changes things.
Wheels stop going and sky turns icy 
and shoulders turn away for good.

Love like birds flying to warmer places,
like little Pakistani boy, with
rubber sandals and a spool of kite string
clutched in his hands, running, running.
Love like little Pakistani boy growing up
to have a daughter, naming her after
everywhere he has never been, after
oceans that divide.

Back home, the rickshaw men drove 
down streets like no brakes, just onward.
Girls would jump onto the bumpers
and know this was flying and
borders were just lines drawn in the sandbox.
Ask the men running the dessert stalls
which way the wind was blowing
and they would throw fistfulls of sugar in the air
and watch it be taken by the breeze and they’d say,
in the direction of sweeter things.

Winter, and I am warming my knuckles
against my dorm room narrator and the cold
has chafed my lips down to no feeling.
Mama calls and says three Muslims have been shot
and be safe, Ramna, say nothing, keep quiet,
be kind even at bitterness. 

I am turning the radiator up all the way
and knowing that somewhere, the rickshaws are 
on roads burning with heat and somewhere,
the equator runs through my Grandma’s home
like a vacant ring of snakeskin.
Here, the cold is changing things. 
Parking lots are battlegrounds and gunshots echo
and kids follow the wind too far and
home forgets ever to see them again.

—  Compass | Ramna Safeer