Mughal India

by Mehnaz Turner

In Austin, I took an Islamic

history course at the university,

and we viewed slides of courtyards and minarets,

proud-faced princes wearing turbans.

During lunch, I'd sit alone eating brownies

wondering about the Punjab.

It was a bad habit, all that sugar and caffeine,

but I needed something

sweeter in my life than pictures of the Taj:

I just couldn't blink them out of me.

There were petals growing between my toes.

By then I was listening to Paul Simon

way too much, and my jeans had

holes in them. When I found

the petals, I showed them to

my husband one night after Larry King,

and he handed me this book on British history

because it turns out you don't have to be a brown immigrant to

bleed roses. He had the petals too,

only they were stuck behind his ears,

and it was almost funny.

All this searching had started long before.

Every visit to Lahore made Los Angeles less familiar.

I always took pictures, but those slides in class

were different. The professor's voice,

so ambassador-like. I wanted to take off my

shoes and make him look. Would he have used

phrases like 'the rhetorical aesthetic' to describe my feet?

After a while the brownies made me nauseous.

I switched to salad for three days and called

my mother in L.A. to tell her because it

always seems to comfort her, these I'm

taking charge of my health phases.

The truth was I missed Lahore,

like she did, only in a kind of history textbook inspired way.

We couldn't talk about minarets,

she had her childhood memories.

I had the smell of a spring garden on my skin.

Later I decided to abandon graduate school

all together. By then I had tulips poking out of my brow,

silk threads around my waist.

My husband and I sat at the neighborhood bar

one afternoon, complaining about deadlines.

We both wanted to visit Stoke-on-Trent

that summer. He started telling me

about some British soccer match from the 1980's,

but when for some odd reason I pictured him wearing a gold turban,

I almost choked on my margarita.

He was too blond and blue-eyed.

It was possible. I had seen the trendy east-west films.

Suddenly, I laughed hard and it felt awkward

because he thought it was about the

player who got the red card, but

it was really about the slides. I hadn't

looked at them like this, through the holes

in my jeans, the bitter buzz of tequila.

Mehnaz Turner was born in Lahore and raised in Los Angeles. She writes poetry and fiction, and her work has appeared in publications such as SAMAR and The Santa Barbara Independent.