You took only your doll, your sister
nothing at all.
Your mother pressed keys
into a neighbour’s hand, closing fingers tight around metal,
like a secret. ‘Keep it,’ she said. ‘The house. It’s yours.’
Did she weep, that Sikh lady,
this sudden owner of a second house,
or was acquisition sufficient to temper sorrow?
Perhaps she watched your father shoulder his gun,
count his bullets, pinch his children’s cheeks,
heard him say, ‘I’ll shoot you all before I let them have you.’
But perhaps she turned inside, to pray or pretend
no relative of hers was among the bawling mobs.
You might not know
or you might not want to say.
You spoke of the platform sweeper,
scratching with his broom at blackening, coagulating puddles
that had oozed off the last train in from Lahore.
Your mother didn’t say what he was doing
and, you, understanding, kept silent too,
your little sister making you brave.
I cannot ask – because there is no answer –
if I would have stood with those crowds
waiting for the next train west, making
desperate plans to conceal my children
in the luggage rack. I want to know
that, like your parents, I would have walked,
foodless and empty-armed,
onto the hot road the monsoon
had not seen fit to bless.
Louise Taylor’s poetry is often inspired by the natural world, history, mythology or some combination of the three. Recent publication credits include The Poetry Shed, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Bonnie’s Crew and the Loose Muse Winchester anthology. She is co-editor of Words for the Wild and tweets occasionally at @Sar1skaTiger.