The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu

By Rohinton Daruwala

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Your Name

It comes to me with a soft
shock of pleasure, finding
your name in print or
in speech.

Surely your name does not
embody you. You cannot
be spelled out in a
few letters.

Yet, there are times,
interrupted in thought,
your name tumbles out of
my mouth

like a flower held
between my fingers
that drops softly to
the floor.

Later on, of course
there will be other names,
sweeter, more intimate and

But until then, this name,
with its worn unfamiliar
petals, this name of yours,
will do.


Lunch with the Aztecs

We sit down to eat
in pleasing familiarity—
the perfume of flowers,
freshly picked.
The mother smiles at me
with folded hands.
‘In the bathroom,’
she says,
‘father’s in the bathroom,
I imagine him.
The last smooth scrape
he considers the blade
and why not?
An offering,
a minute sacrifice,
a slice of skin
for family health,
a promotion,
kinder neighbours.

I wonder,
if I listen close
under the sound
of my breath,
what will it sound like?
splitting skin like butter
or the wicked, wicked
sawing through
of tough leather,
and will it boil over
like thin red lava
or splatter, splatter rush
out like a river,
subterranean once,
now liberated.

And then he will sit
with us,
his fresh wounds glowing
with the pride
of paternal self-sacrifice.

And the snake will dance
before me,
its thick green body
with its sap of life,
adorned with feathers,
bright, bright feathers.

Atop the dizzying heights
of a decaying pyramid
I will squint
into a valley of bones
sharpened to daggers
and count which ones
I arrange for my enemies
and, which ones
are arranged for me.


The Black Dog’s Ghost

Most times it’s the smell
of him that wakes me,
a brush of fur on the arm
startles me awake, heart pounding.

Sometimes I come home
to see him sitting there,
holding the living room prisoner,
in his rough pawed silence.

I know what you think,
but I didn’t kill him.
I merely watched him die,
a bleeding hit-and-run accident.

Sometimes, I think he’s just
a companion or a guide,
for here or later, and sometimes
a hungry waiting beast.

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