The Chair Lift

p>high, hovering, just above a snowy himalaya slope
the three of us, dangling from a chair lift,
roped here by a german company for our pleasure,
courtesy of a revitalization program under nawaz sharif,
man says to newlywedded wife
magnificent, breath-taking, such khoobsurti,
statements of irrefutable fact made by a satisfied rajah
so I have spoken, so it is gospel,
English reinforcing Urdu
I am a businessman, I am an international man
proud family man, lives according to the code of duty
I bring this beauty to my loved ones
like new money, like someone who is not quite sure
what he has done to succeed
but he's willing to say the system works
stubby and hairy, (rubbery mole on his cheek),
simple and square, (he suspects he is dull)
he entered textile exports when it was hot
he can now afford to support this woman here,
a fair face and silky midnight hair
like a european's

the reel turns, the chair climbs higher,
the edge of a cliff carved out of the mountain
turns out to be a camouflaged dirt roof
grey laundry, thin garments, hang from an invisible rope
skinny chickens collect in front of the mud-dwelling,
waiting to be scolded by the shrill female voice
shooting out of the entrance to the shanty
hot enough to sear the backs of children;
even the tough ruddy-faced children of the mountain
the human siren slices the frigid air
spurred by the sharp pangs of biting cold, so cold,
raging at hunger, multiplied by all these mouths
the gradual erosion of a face by the elements
lamenting the wearing down of a body, a will
accustomed and oblivious to the intrusion of the chair lift
asking for no sympathy for this circumstance,
no judgment either for this life

Kamal he, ye logh kase raithe he
Remarkable, how these people live here
Their wretchedness side-by-side with nature
He directs his bride's gaze to the left
where the view is still pristine, uncorrupted,
even by the presence of this contraption we are sitting on
The couple lean over and peer down, their feet dangling
In unison as if from an infant's high chair
Their fat, mittened hands joined

So khoob surat, so beautiful
he murmurs again
his bushy movie star mustache nuzzles her white neck
waiting for a response, an affirmation,
nestled, she stares at the scene below her
the scent of pure still alpine air,
the sharpness of the silence
no longer pierced by the eerie wails which have stopped,
the highest peaks are visible on the same canvas
that you can count each and every blade of green grass
Everything is vital, everything is essential,
everything is so fuckn' intense here
Even the tops of Kashmir look mysteriously serene

But what is so beautiful? she says to all this, dismissively
He laughs at this gentle creature's defiance
pleased to hear his natural cynicism mirrored
in her red, red lips, compact strawberries
content there is nothing here that he is missing
he was generous even with his praise
pleased to find that something as sweet as a flower
can have such bitter petals

later, walking towards the parking lot, she smiles at me,
quickly, as if to say: beauty has to preserve beauty
spare it from the assault of undeserving eyes
leave it for those to whom it belongs
even if they can't afford to keep it

Comments

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