Noorulain is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and a two time Pushcart Prize nominee. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poetry explores themes of identity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience. Noorulain has formerly worked as the Associate Editor and the Lead Poetry Editor of Papercuts magazine.
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On An Anonymous Street Corner
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We meet again on another anonymous street corner,
harboring our futile, make-believe lives
that we’ve lived with other people and sheltered from each other.
We meet amidst tall pampas grass
weeding out the native buttercups,
and the caterpillar infestation,
which drove away all the butterflies,
hordes upon hordes of small wings afloat air currents
making their own useless journeys
like we’ve made ours.
And then we sit on deck chairs propped on
fresh asphalt under cheap umbrella stands to shield us from
the waning sun.
A breeze teases my hair and yours
and we look like strangers
sitting in a foreign cafe
where people pale-skinned and golden-haired
cannot recognize the familiarity in my hand resting over my Yeats
and your hand resting over mine.
Our presence here is yet another pointless milestone,
hollow from the inside, a paper airplane hovering at its maximum height
before it tilts one wing downward
and crashes in a tragic white mess.
You hold my iPod and scan through the playlist.
Kishore’s name and Mozart’s symphonies
make you look at me with that undefined old need of yours.
My face betrays me the last time in your presence
and I walk away under the pretense of getting a refill.
I drop the recyclable coffee cup into the trash –
some things just cannot be saved.
I see you from a distance then
face bent, shoulders slouched,
a failure’s stance,
one hand a dead weight in your lap,
the other holding a pen,
writing in the book I left on the table –
a wandering poem?
A last word?
I pluck a tulip from the small garden patch of the cafe
and place it behind my ear,
one last way to torture you with a glimpse into the past.
You hand me the book
and reach for the flower that is my headdress –
it is too late for intimacy, I fear,
and take your hand.
It only takes me a moment
to transform residual affection
into a formal handshake.
I give you my best radiant smile as you hand me my Yeats
with your fingerprints on the cover
and a note from you inside.
I squish a lazy caterpillar under my feet and you cringe
before I throw my Yeats that bears your signature now
into the nearest trash can,
and under an orange sun,
among happy people and tall weeds,
I walk away without my book.
Some things just cannot be saved.