by Durre Shahwar
My grandmother’s house sits empty on the border, a crooked line between
two countries that were once whole, the air uneasy in anticipation of
bloodshed yet to reach the district, warnings arrive like lightning before a
storm, that for the master will be a flashing dance in the eye, forgotten
as one of many, for others a life, bodies and broken branches strewn across
the land, loud bolts of electricity masking the soldiers’ heavy boots kicking
the door to a deserted house.
My grandmother’s house sits empty, wildflowers wilfully growing between bricks
and mortar, barren rooms still holding the heat of a tawa left behind, lingering
scent of black ink, charcoal fractured across burnt wood, hurried calligraphy
of a child, echoes of the adhan calling to prayers.
My grandmother’s house sits empty, while in the new country she grows Midas
sunflowers that recline against the eastern wall, the surface lined with broken
glass to deter birds from gorging on the raw seeds, circadian sunlight filtering
through the shards, tilting into the watchful eye she casts across the cornfields
where my mother runs as a child, across the pock-marked land awaiting kernel,
across the well filled with summer rain, to the horizon scanning for soldiers.
In the new country she teaches my mother to gather eggs from hens, to mould
wheat into sticking on clay walls above the fire, to fasten all the locks on the door
at night. I carry these memories, unable to separate mine from imagined from
inherited, an amalgamation of experience I’m told is trauma, movement I’m told is displacement, as I put roots in a country built from cuts in my grandmother’s heels.
Decades after, crooked fractured lines follow her, follow my mother, follow me,
beneath the soles of our identical feet I keep rubbing ground sunflower oil in to
so that my daughter may not inherit them too.
Durre Shahwar is a writer and researcher interested in subversive texts, images, and themes. She is the co-founder of ‘Where I’m Coming From’, a community open mic collective that features writers of colour in Wales. Her work has been published in various magazines and anthologies, notably: Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class (Dead Ink Books), We Shall Fight Until We Win (404 Ink), Homes For Heroes 100 (Festival of Ideas). Durre has been a part of Hay Festival Writers at Work and BBC Writersroom Welsh Voices. Durre is currently doing her PhD in Creative Writing at Cardiff University and working towards her first book of autofiction about identity, race, migration. @Durre_Shahwar