Once upon a routine death,
February snow wears a cold night
in its cataracted eyes, and sets out to meet
fellow occupants of fresh obituaries in stale newspapers.
That seek asylum from winter drought
in lost samovars of salted tea served with warm butter
at funerals of young militants to thirsty mourners.
sit across each other in saffron tents
and lay bets on the average velocity of new guns
tested in old defense factories sewn on a frenetic metropolis.
They dust off
a dead militant’s arithmetic
books lying in sealed schoolbags
to find formulae for exact square area of elegies
cast by the hill-shrine on malkhah where pleas
tied on its latticed windows will be given a state burial.
They never agree on the circumferences of elegies
and so bargain a lump-sum settlement
of dinners over smelly kerosene evenings
and grainy news on BBC Urdu Radio. They hasten to sign
affidavits that declare on phone-in programs that the sorrow
of love was only a ruse, we were fated to suffer, and suffer our destiny.