Dhaka Dust

Can’t occupy the same space at the same time
unless, of course, you land in Dhaka, rickshaws
five or six abreast. They are all here:
studded metal backboards ablaze with red flowers,
Heineken boxes, a Bangladeshi star with blue eyes,
peacocks, pink fans of filigree. The drivers sweat
and strain in the plaid lungis, and each face
seems to say Allah takes and Allah
gives. A woman breathes into her green shawl
against the dust on the road’s median. A man
with a plaid scarf (surplus from The Gap)
slaps the rump of a passing gray car
as though it’s a horse or a dog. You are there, too,
your maroon sleeves begin to stick
despite your deodorant. Under your orna,
a laminated map and digital camera
cradled in your lap. One strand of silver
wiry by your ear. Bits of children’s songs
snag in your windpipe. Other words surface:
sweatshop and abject poverty, and you let them.
They mix with the low rumbling that began
on the plane, ms and bs tumbling, amplified
in the streets: the rickshaw bells’ light metal,
the nasal peal of horns. On this continent,
the ocean’s giant tongue has swept away
miles of coastline, and bodies flood the water.
Dust sifts into your lungs and sinks—feline,
black, to remain long after you leave.
Dilruba Ahmed, “Dhaka Dust” from Dhaka Dust. Copyright © 2011 by Dilruba Ahmed. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.
Source: Dhaka Dust (Graywolf Press, 2011)
More Poems by Dilruba Ahmed