27 August 2016


He was beautiful, or rather, I imagined him to be beautiful behind that mask he wore.

A silver sequined mask.

Of course it was the mask. Of course it was, for my imagination far exceeded any reality. Or, if my imagination did not exceed reality, then surely my assumptions regarding the limits of beauty did.

He was walking. I walked into the event hall as he was walking out and he was masked. What else could I do? We spoke, though why and of what I do not recall. Something simple, I am sure. Simple enough to be spoken of while privately contemplating beauty.

He would return, he promised, after the end of my sister-in-law’s mehndi. We were to meet at the swing in the lilac glow so I sat in the swing in the lilac glow and I waited and pictured his imminent return.

He would arrive on a throne, I decided. Yes, masked and on a throne.


And though normally, that might seem pretentious, I’d hardly even notice it here, for the throne would be atop – or more precisely, held between – four enormous and bejeweled elephants.

His cortege would consist of five thousand Persian charioteers in five thousand chariots (scythed), ten thousand mounted warriors, and fifteen thousand of the finest archers in the land. Before the chariots would come his trusted tnunshi and chief officer, wearing a ceremonial lion skin robe, resting on a somewhat smaller but no less noble elephant than those of my masked friend.

Then would come his silver-thighed cup bearers, mamluks playing bamboo flutes, dancing girls from India, and Sufi poets reciting verses of love for me. His personal mathematicians, his astrologers, physicians, philologers, and logicians would ride, biting their fingers in astonishment at the ostentatiousness of the display.

The perfumes and the flowers – oh, how could I forget the perfumes and the flowers? – the silks, the rugs, embroidered tapestries, lavish vestments from throughout the known world and beyond! Cartload after cartload of fruits and exotic foods from far distant orchards. And more sturdy oxen than you could shake a stick at, if you had a stick and wished to shake it at some sturdy oxen.

All of the royal court and all the regalia of empire, marching along just for me and singing.

I would join my mysterious stranger at his throne and we would all ride off together, off and to a river valley, where we’d listen to melodists from Kabul or from Kashmir (I forget which) and eat pomegranates until morning’s light.

“Naz,” a voice from somewhere said. “Naz, the hall is closing up. Come on. I’ll drive you home.”

There stood my sister. At the swing in the lilac glow.

There were no pomegranates.

There were no pomegranates and no melodists and no oxen and no tapestries and not a single elephant to be seen anywhere.

There never are any pomegranates, are there?

23 August 2016

After the wedding

We tried a bit of everything else first. Eventually we phoned the EMS.

The people who emerged from out of the ambulance were women. Women! Three of them, too, and giants at that. Nephilim, I suppose. The men of our party looked ashamed for having resorted to women in the exercise of strength at hand.

It wasn’t only that our guest was large, you see, though certainly he was that and more. Having once managed his body, with great difficulty and with the huffing and the puffing, down into a chair, he found himself then unable to get back up and onto his feet.

The party screeched to a halt. Everyone to a person stared, like he was a car accident or an entertainment spectacle for us or like something just on a screen and unaware that every eye in the room was observing his predicament and judging him.

The EMTs grabbed hold and a-one and a-two and a-up onto his feet and then everyone clapped their hands but me. The poor man. What a nightmare for him! He’ll probably never venture out in public again!

I felt so sad for our guest that for a moment – only a moment, I grant you, but a full moment, still – I nearly forgot that this was the same man who’d tried to buy me off my father when I was just fifteen. 

19 August 2016

The gong show

When you come to the week of your brother’s wedding and when you’ve stayed too busy to sleep in weeks and when everyone is gathered in together for the Mehndi and when the bride and groom are missing and when the bride and the groom are missing because they’ve had a wreck and when the crowd is bored and when the crowd is looking to you, bored


maybe you decide to take the bull by the horns and maybe you decide to entertain and maybe you decide to dance and maybe you decide to dance with your sister and your cousin and maybe I’m talking full-fledged Shakar Wandaan although maybe it’s not so good and maybe no one even pays attention and maybe this goes on for like fifteen or twenty minutes.

Well, maybe you don’t do any of that.

Maybe it’s just me.

12 August 2016

A dream?

It is a dream, or most probably a dream. I cannot be certain, for I am in the same place within the dream as without, as is my habit.

But yes, it must be a dream, after all. I am almost certain of it, now, as much as I can be certain of it, which is to say nearly not at all.

The bird that ruins my nap has a green body and a blue head. It taps. It taps. I get up to shoo it off and it stares at me through my window.

The bird is my friend, Arun.

I know right away what this is. A spell has been cast – on Arun, I mean to say – and now to all the world, it is as though Arun is a bird. Scared and alone, he has flown nine thousand, five hundred-odd miles in hopes that I might recognize him and solve his dilemma. I recognize him.

“Come in, Arun,” I say and I slide open the window. “You have traveled far. Rest and find comfort here while I bring water for you.”

A spell is only a trick. Maybe a trick of the mind. Maybe hypnosis. Still, in the end, only a trick. Myself, I have a way with puzzles and mazes and riddles and I can break this. I can!

It is a simple matter, really, just a matter of coming at it from a different angle. The unintended angle. The illusionist waves his right hand before the crowd so no attention is paid to what his left hand is doing. That's all there is to casting or breaking a spell. 

I can break this spell.

This is my sort of game exactly.

I walk back to the room, water glass in hand, and find my cat, Qasurah, Lord of the South, up on the window sill. The scattering of feathers around her does not look promising.

It seems my cat has eaten Arun.

Yes. Yes, it is only a dream.


07 August 2016

A report from the green party convention

I sat across the hallway, mostly. People-watching.

I am afraid that I did not participate in any meaningful way.

Despite my standoffishness, friendliness abounded. Attendees approached me offering political literature, which I accepted gladly. A man congratulated me on my “magnificent” nose.

I sat on a windowsill. I sat cross-legged, which is not to say I suffered from some sort of affliction – not walleyed or club-footed, pigeon-toed or hump-backed – but I mean to say rather that I sat with my legs crossed.

What an appalling word! Cross-legged. Like an impairment or very nearly so: “I am sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Patel, but little Sanjay is going to be cross-legged for life. We can have him fitted with leg braces.”

This report of mine is a travesty, bogged down in talk of cross-leggedness and no way to extricate myself from it now. This is why I avoid political reporting.

At least I didn’t say “sitting Indian style.”

Dr. Cornel West ran from me, I believe.
Wikileaks' Julian Assange spoke via satellite.
This young man came in second in the Florida
Green Presidential primaries. He is 17.
In the end, the convention nominated these two individuals
to be President and Vice President.