For My Father, Karachi 1947

By Meena Alexander b. 1951 Meena Alexander
Mid-May, centipedes looped over netting at the well's mouth.
Girls grew frisky in summer frocks, lilies spotted with blood.

You were bound to meteorology,
Science of fickle clouds, ferocious winds.

The day you turned twenty-six fighter planes cut a storm,
Fissured air baring the heart's intricate meshwork

Of want and need—
Springs of cirrus out of which sap and shoot you raised me.

Crossing Chand Bibi Road,
Named after the princess who rode with hawks,

Slept with a gold sword under her pillow,
Raced on polo fields,

You saw a man lift a child, her chest burnt with oil,
Her small thighs bruised.

He bore her through latticed hallways
Into Lady Dufferin's hospital.

How could you pierce the acumen of empire,
Mesh of deceprion through which soldiers crawled,

Trees slashed with petrol,
Grille work of light in a partitioned land?

When you turned away,
Your blue black hair was crowned with smoke—

You knelt on a stone. On your bent head
The monsoons poured.

Meena Alexander, "For My Father, Karachi 1947" from Birthplace with Buried Stones. Copyright © 2013 by Meena Alexander.  Reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

Source: Birthplace with Buried Stones (Northwestern University Press, 2013)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Meena Alexander b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Meena  Alexander

Biography

Born in Allahabad, India, poet Meena Alexander was raised in south India and Sudan. She earned a BA at Khartoum University and a PhD at Nottingham University. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Birthplace with Buried Stones (2013), PEN Open Book Award–winner Illiterate Heart (2002), and House of a Thousand Doors (1988). In her poetry, which has been translated into several languages, Alexander . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.