I fantasise here about what it might have been like to have been born in Pakistan. I grew up in Hatfield, which didn't seem very multicultural in the nineteen fifties and sixties.

The Sari

Inside my mother
I peered through a glass porthole.
The world beyond was hot and brown.

They were all looking in on me –
Father, Grandmother,
the cook’s boy, the sweeper-girl,
the bullock with the sharp
shoulderblades,
the local politicians.

My English grandmother
took a telescope
and gazed across continents.

All the people unravelled a sari.
It stretched from Lahore to Hyderabad,
wavered across the Arabian Sea,
shot through with stars,
fluttering with sparrows and quails.
They threaded it with roads,
undulations of land.

Eventually
they wrapped and wrapped me in it
whispering Your body is your country.

from Split Word: Poems 1990-2005 (Bloodaxe, 2008), Moniza Alvi 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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