Photograph by Nazneen Zafar

by Nazneen Zafar

The Inner Life of Limbs

Like shirts on a line
that has twisted
from the poles in the yard

and is being towed
by the breeze
to someone else’s
scrap of a back-garden,

the herons

above the wet rice field. In the air,
their legs

stick out far beyond the tail, and they keep
their feet
as well-behavedly together
as the strange


we once noticed in the park,
the one who, entranced
by the fat goldfish
in the ornamental pond,

pointed them out to mum
with the neatly joined up index fingers
of both his hands … Reminding me
of how, sometimes,


lying on your side
—arms out, hands ‘standing tiptoe’—

to attempt, in sleep,
a balletic leap.
Or, who knows, maybe even



My Banquo

We’ll be five at dinner this evening. I have laid the table
for six. Not to mark the place of someone I invited
in vain. Or forgot to invite. Or didn’t want to,
this time around. Not for symmetry’s sake.
Not to thumb my nose at all the unspokens
that go into cooking up a Meaning and a Purpose
for every little thing. No, I want the five of us today
to come, gradually—over salad, curry, wine—
to see the clean plate and cold seat
in the same light as when, to avoid short-changing
customers, to please them into returning, bakers
throw in a thirteenth roll. A self-serving gesture,
perhaps. But one that allows for a certain sloppy
openness. Lets happiness haunt it.


The Villa of Livia’s Garden Room Fresco

My love, when you and I
our hands
in bed, under the pillows

we don’t do it
in the hope
of striking
Reality’s gold coin

or Philosophy’s cold wrist-watch.

Nor do we take
the egg-and-dart pattern
of our quilt

Paradise’s rivers and roses.

But once the darkness widens
our eyes
and removes
our clothes,

we make quiet love quite simply in our little room

and from above our heads,
the Blu-tacked picture
the bedside book-stacks

with a garden

at once
in fruit
and bloom,
running riot, and in ruins. . .

Where, around the radiant
quince, oak and pomegranate
trees, jays, blackbirds and orioles

in mid-flight—their
throbbing, like that of our two hearts,
by the exquisite


of having come so freely
and from so far
to a

as real, as ethereal, as this


Editors’ note: The poem, “My Banquo,” originally appeared as the poem, “My Mudita,” in Bridging the Waters III, An International Bilingual Poetry Anthology (Korean, American, Other | 한국어와 영어), Co-edited by Yoon-Ho Cho & Stanley H. Barkan.