We are lucky she thought.
Perhaps we are lucky.
‘Lucky’ as Nehru declared,
‘to be stepping from the old to the new’.
‘Stepping,’ he’d said,
not ‘trudging’ or ‘hurtling’,
as if you took a calm footstep
and with less than the effort required
to leap into the air — you would leave
the old behind like a threadbare shawl
and immerse yourself in the new.
But could anywhere be new, that new?
Would the new-born Pakistan
be hoisted into being, like a flag?
Could she squeeze her familiar self
into one of its bright corners?
Ah, to be made new!
To be newly-made!
The morning was new
and these were morning thoughts.
The villages reduced to the howling of dogs
belonged to the night.
It was morning in her head,
morning in her stomach.
Soon — it would be afternoon.
~ Moniza Alvi
Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan and grew up in Hertfordshire. After working for many years as a secondary school teacher in London, she is now a freelance writer and tutor. Her most recent collection, ‘At the Time of Partition’ (Bloodaxe, 2013), was a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
‘Stepping’ is taken from ‘At the Time of the Partition’, with permission from the poet and the publisher.