Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

you, Never let anyone touch you
here. You were terrified no one would

those mornings spent veiled
in the mosque, gazing through the curtain

separating you and the other girls
from the men. Auntie Neelam layers

squares of cotton over the hot wax,
& you anchor your body so as not

to pull away—you close your eyes,
ready to flinch. Summers you pulled

away from any kind of touching.
Summers you ignored your parents, refused

to eat, obsessively read the Bible
instead of the Qur'an. Summers you repeated

to yourself, This is my body, do
this in remembrance of me—and the hiding

Issue 4 | Winter 2012

of your face with the veil, I remember,
Ghulam Ali sings. You extend one smooth arm

to Auntie Neelam, uncurl your palm,
let her press your fingertips down to hold it

flat. She squeezes out henna, fills
your hands with every imaginable shape

of intricate vine, fragile blossom.
You imagine her in Pakistan, cooking for

her husband, her long, dark hair
twisted away into a headscarf, a Qur'an

dark with dust on a high shelf
beside pictures of her younger self. What

right do you have to place her
there? You have given her a cheaply made

headscarf, a flimsier husband,
clichés for a life owned & lived. In return,