Diwali, Manchester 2001

By Stuart A. Paterson

I think of windows as I think of caves,
entrances perhaps to deeper places
where we huddle tight together close to
loss of life & faith, fanning embers of
ourselves to raise a last hurrah of flame
against our ever-shortening days.

We put up curtains, shutters, blinds, conspire
to guard & keep inside & just for us
what fire & light we have. Outside, out there
where dark October wears its lengthening
overcoats, each window fades from sight
& any hope of refuge from the night.
No welcome here, they say, best find another
door, another window, go away.

But not that night. That night I saw a city
ring its doors & windows full of candlelight,
each diya winking, blinking, burning with
the oxygen of sudden sumptuous life.

And the skies, a blooming rangoli of
pattern blasting winter to some other
distant hemisphere, sweet smells of kheer,
galub jamun & rasmali like welcome
mats before the tongue, an opened door
into that place, those caves you’d thought
long emptied of the basic warmth of faith.

Reason is my god, a cold & dark one
sometimes left to linger long upon the
doorstep like a peddler selling trinkets.
Then, I was selling nothing, was offered
everything as Manchester became
a festival of light in all the names
of everyone afraid of shortening days,
closed doors, inevitable giftless nights.

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