The wrinkles on her forehead bend and curve like the Chenab
filling and defining her face.
Deepened with wisdom and worn with time, I cannot imagine her without them.
Hands so delicate,
hands that tilled the land,
the land of the five rivers from which she came.
Hands as antique as the pendant she wears around her neck.
Covered in white from head to toe, she walks with a sadness none can fathom.
The sites she must have seen, the losses she must have endured.
The blood on their hands, on her hands
though she’s tried to wash it away.
The stain stays.
A simple line, arbitrary at the time, on parchment.
With some divine power he wielded his pen.
A line on a paper that created a rift, a rift so deep it parted bloodlines.
A rift so deep we fell inside,
inside into the divide, down with our humanity we fell.
They fell, she fell and no one could help them up.
12 strikes a new day,
new nations born,
born from the womb of a broken mother
a mother abandoned by her children,
consumed in themselves they abandoned her,
their mother who had given them everything.
She lives only as a memory,
distant and fading.
A memory of life before,
before her tryst with destiny,
before the irreparable harm done by her children.
Still, she waits.
She waits and waits at the door
for them to come and take her.
But time doesn’t allow it.
Instead it strips her body and soul of any hope she had left
till she’s empty.
Her children are gone, never to return.
They’ve gone too far and far apart that she cannot reunite them.
She cannot call them back for they do not hear her pleas.
She is broken.
I hear the birds still sing
in the land of the five rivers.
They sing again, but with a different tune.
Time heals all wounds, they said.
Your heart will be whole again, they said.
She listens, but she no longer believes.
Still I see her sometimes looking at the door,
with a broken heart once full of hope.
She looks and waits
until the clock strikes twelve.
* * *
Henna Kaur Kaushal is a recent UC Berkeley grad and South Asian diasporic child bred from haldi and mehndi. Her reflections on the 1947 Partition led her to write this poem which originally appeared on her site henna v. world. She’s also a wandering progressive vegan Sikh feminist.