Sari shop, Easton
A step through a doorway
An overnight ‘plane journey
A month’s ship voyage
Easton to Lahore
By pushing open a door.
A woman closer to death than birth
Lies swaddled in the corner
Atop a pile of rainbow-plush rugs
Princess and the pea.
Her walnut face stretches a smile
A desert-dweller spotting strangers
Supplies and stories borne from beyond the limen.
Her existence decisively proved through our materialisation in this shop
Making an indentation on her life today.
A young woman sprang up upon our entry
Delicate surprise on soft face
Kept distant from the sun.
Sudden alertness of body under salwar kameez.
Ready to pull cloth off shelves
Unravel saris our fingers will trace patterns on
Dangle salwar suits off nails on walls,
As bait for our attention,
With her long boat hook
Prodding us from one potential purchase to another.
The rousing hues courageously fight back against the shop’s twilight interior.
Newspapers stuck to windows
An anaemic light bulb.
The daylight of six minutes ago- dusty ancient history.
Our only shared language corporeal.
Fingers point. Heads shake. Eyes meet.
Prices tapped into a calculator
Presented for our scrutiny.
My guilt heavy, dragging my shoulders down
Like tin-crammed shopping bags
As we return to the door empty-handed.
Scouting mission accomplished, to locate fabrics
Which colours, where, at what price
For my daughter’s daydream prom dress.
Hesitation at the door handle
A final, discerning look around
To imprint the shop, its owners, wares and scent on my memory.
Firm conviction that on re-entry to the pavement
This place will evanesce
Another of Scheherazade’s tales brought to an end for that night.
Subitha is Sri Lankan, lives in Bristol. She published a memoir of life in Saudi Arabia- The Colours of Sand (Tangent Books); is included in a local poetry anthology and various journals. Buddhism, Motherhood and Equalities’ Activism influence her poetry.