1 minute reading time (211 words)

Kingfisher (The Mahals, Wah village, 1990)

Note: The memory of Jalal Khan’s humble village has been lost in the palace and serai built close at hand by the Emperor Shah Jehan in 1645…(Griffin & Massy, ‘Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab’)


Blue dipped with startling accuracy and darted;
‘’Look, a star has fallen!’’, the child shouted-
Dragonflies flitted, enmeshed in translucent skeins;
Dip, dip and flit;
I saw a sudden sparkle of turquoise, caught by sun,
Opaque brilliances radiating cobalt confidence;
Something rose, something silver flashed--fish, beak and bird?

At night, the ripples settled, waters melting into molten
The old house was creeper-covered;
Once, kings had fished here, where Kingfisher fished.
‘’Oh, a bird’’, said the child, scornfully-
‘’I thought, perhaps, it was a falling star that surfaced again,
Rose to heaven from these limpid shores, or perhaps,
Narcissus, admiring himself in tranquil mirrors where princes were wont to,
Elephants, with howdahs, wading through sparkling streams,
Sloe-eyed maidens burnished to perfection,
Washing their kohl-black hair,
Some water dryad, ascending azure, playing freely
In this forgotten place,
Or perhaps angels, rising with silver trumpets to bring down the world
In a blaze of glory.

But it was only a bird, after all.
A Kingfisher, you say?’’

I wonder, now, if it was?


Pub 1995


Lawrence Gardens, Lahore *

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