Salome Starfire

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The missing photographs



I have these photographs that I’ve not looked at for quite some time–a year thereabouts. These photographs are taken on my latest trip to Pakistan, which was ten years ago. But I dare not look at them. I’ve practically lied to myself about all the photographs that do exist that I will be disappointed when I see that they do not. And there are certain territories, physical spaces that disappear off the map of my mind. I plan them out. I go over them. I chart the border of a mud brick wall to the roadside to the village outskirts to those spindly trees that mark the bitumen road. Those spindly trees that grow everywhere. I should be a botanist for those trees.

To name them and give them a proper name, a goddess of weaving…maybe Neith–that Egyptian goddess of weaving, a Neith tree. But spindly sounds more appropriate. Lewis Carroll’s use of spoonerisms, wordplay, his nonsensical delightful fun with words continues through poetry, literature and music. Gertrude Stein, Elliot, Moon, Joyce, Peake etc.

So back to the pondle trees. They are despondent. They are twisted despondent trees that do not make it into a photograph.They mark the spot where I stopped photographing. Their absence is my assuredness that made-up memories can be more accurate than a photograph. Even the mango tree I write about in my poetry. One mango tree surrounded by hundreds. It was this tree that saved us from the mosque and cold showers, the tree where we were possessed by a jinn. Not like the one in the surah from the Koran, but more like the one from the One thousand and one nights. Maybe we were the spirits of fire and air inhabiting the chicken-pox plagued bodies of small children. But I don’t have any photos. Just like the absence of photos of my worried mother rubbing snow into our itchy poxed skin in the mountains surrounded by gunfire and sinking houses. No photos.

This is the way it is with a head full of gunpowder and false memories. Fantastical memories, mathematical equations and geographical excursions inside my head.


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