A House Made of Smoke

by Naveed Alam

In a house made of smoke
I lived with three sisters.
Pretti, Geeti, and Gonne

Preeti emerged only to prepare
pitchers of cucumber-yogurt shampoo.
Bathroom occupied for hours as she

washed and glossed the long silky braids.
We loved her, but yogurt and cucumbers
out only food during the war. The day

she finished out week supply
I hid the blender. She grabbed
my balls. I screamed, Gonne came

running without turning off the iron.
Geeti saw the flames and screamed
louder. All this screaming and no one

bothered. The neighbors believed
that people who lived in smokehouses
should get used to the fires. We got

used to a life untainted by the outside.
Gonne always busy growing tulips
in the pots lining the hazy corridors.

Geeti and I writing the lyrics, making props
for the comedies we enacted at night.
Dancing, singing, and sometimes

arguments over the coveted role of
the Winged Demon. For this Demon
we prepared the bath, laid out the oils.

Its feet we dried with our towels.
Laughter and plays ended the day
brother returned from the war, single

armed and cynical. We offered him
the demon role. He tore apart the wings.
“Trust me,” said Geeti in all innocence,

“dear brother, you’ll be such a smash
with your handsome handlebar mustache.”
Unbelievable! That cruel motherfucker

smacker her so hard he tore open
her right eardrum. Poor Geeti, she
recovered but never rhymed again.

Soon our parents arrived and hastily
arranged my sisters’ marriages.
One wedding sufficed for three.

All of Gonne’s tulips plucked to make
garlands for the grooms. The flower pots
packed as dowry. Now they serve

as spittoons and trash cans. Preeti’s
shiny tresses shredded y her husband
a jealous disabled veteran. Not much

left of the house either except
a few strands I sometimes weave
into spirals, staircases, stories.

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