Poem by Rafiq Kathwari

Capitals: Game Farouk Plays To Keep Mother’s Mind Active

Moscow! Mother says
when Farouk asks,
Capital of Russia?

Japan? Tokyo!
She gazes at the sun

mirrored in a pane
across the courtyard.

“You were born
a week after Nagasaki,”

she says to Farouk
who arches his eyebrows

leans forward in his chair
gently rubs her gnarled fingers,

but keeps on playing.
Germany? Munich!

No. Berlin, he says,
& you, standing at the footboard,

think to what purpose
reprising history

of human madness
in the 20 th Century.

So many hardy women — here
Hebrew Home for Aged

The Bronx
lived through so many horrors

the horror of nuking humans
of Partitions

horror of Holocausts
of Ku Klux Klan

of a Cold War in Europe
horror of hot wars in Asia —

so many strong women like Mother
paragraphs of pyrrhic pride

writ on furrowed faces,
declining on soft beds—

yes, declining not reclining —
who now play along

with prosperous sons
in posh pavilions

named for patrons
who would annex

planets beyond the moon
if they could.

What’s the capital of Israel? Farouk asks.
“A trick question,” Mother says,
chuckling, “Falasteen.”

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