Reading Lolita in Kashmir

JK Bank

In Another Country - Rafiq Kathwari

for Alfred Corn


A boy, I stole
into grandpa’s study.

An art dealer,
he loved books

with gilded edges,
Aristotle to Zola

all stuck together
in the humidity.

I snuck Lo out
to his black Chevy

rifled for dirty bits,
steering her away for a spin,

teen-tunes swirling in my head,
I Want to Hold Your Hand.

We hovered over a valley ringed
by sharp mountains, white turbans

on peaks. Lake Dal in the hem,
polished by a soft breeze.

A paisley-shaped river
sobbed through a dazed valley.

Amputated tree trunks screamed
reams of plastic choked icy streams

barbed wire hedged the Shalimar
Toyotas jammed the bazaars.

An ancient Sufi shrine oddly gutted
its rich latticework lost.

New architecture
showed no awe for Nature.

Half-widows wailed
clawed at mass graves

yearning for their disappeared.
Nightingales sang

of joy, not sorrow.
At Zero Bridge

lilacs by bunkers bloomed.
A Lord of the Skies sound-boomed —

startled, stray dogs howled.
In Grandpa’s shiny Chevy,

Lolita slipped
from my lap

as we finished
our foreboding odyssey.


Excerpted with permission from Rafiq Kathwari’s In Another Country, Doire Press.