Abu, – Fatima Malik

as I sat on a Manhattan side street sidewalk yesterday for a belated birthday
dinner, it was a not too cool, not too warm long summer evening, so perfect

it made me happy to be outside, alive, even unbothered by occasional impossible
to ignore sirens from ambulances speeding by, making me wonder if I was in the

proximity of a life ending, facing away from the bustle of Second Avenue—
the City is coming back to life again, Abu—out of nowhere came a sweet and

strong scent on the breeze I could not place. I conjectured it was lilacs but could not
see the sheer profusion of pale purple flowers that is characteristic, wondered if it was

night blooming jasmine, but it did not smell like Karachi nights when the scent hits
as you enter or leave the house, do you remember? So we asked the attentive man

from the restaurant, the one with the friendly eyes and the kind face, Abu, and
learned of the fragrant linden tree. The scent was an unexpected gift, a wonder

in the concrete and as I found out later, entirely common in this landscape because
the littleleaf linden is not deterred by poor soil and subpar irrigation. There is one

leaf (serrated edges) per twig, twigs twin on either side of the branch, a miracle
of symmetry, leaves fanning above tiny pale yellow flowers that occur seven

to ten per cluster. I have been searching for the Urdu word for linden
to tell you but cannot find it. I told the tree about that day, Abu, and

how I am afraid to be away from the phone too long around this time
of evening in case my world on the other side of the world is ending

again in my absence. The tree bore witness to the deep etch of loss
in my body, Abu, to my fear of loss returning. I told the tree that,

just like it, I am here, feet still planted on the pavement, flaming to life again
in unexpected moments, that I am beginning to hope again, that I am surviving.

Fatima Malik is a Pakistani-American poet with work in The Georgia Review, Door Is A Jar Magazine, and elsewhere. Since her father’s sudden death, she has been grappling with grief through her poems. While she currently lives in New York City, her heart is in Lahore.

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