—after the photo essay by Tal Streeter
They call it kite fever, kite madness, gangs of kite looting children
hoarding bright acid kites, darting through rows of kite kiosks,
until the kite wars of the Festival of Kites begin. One string must cut
another, the Manjha, the fighting string, fortified with a paste of spices, rice,
crushed glass and gems. I felt I was being born again as a bird, says a boy
of his virgin festival who ever after seeks that primal pull.
Bird or warrior? Bushad late to his wedding for lingering on the roof
flying kites, the sandalwood reel humming, his ring finger
clacking against the tug of flight. And what of our British photographer,
trekking the roiling Punjab to capture the eyes of God?
One of the self-styled road trippers, track bashers… popping his head
out the bus window to soak in the gorgeous view,
let him rain on us the hands of kite makers, parsimonious
vendors of kites, multicolored rice paste dyed and infused,
mythic kite creatures, kites hung with pennants and years ago—
so the story goes—a single gold wafer from the Mughul Nawab
that would fall into the arms of the one lucky man
in a crowd of thousands who could now support his family for a year.
Thus blessings waft down from a heaven full of dancing
symbols and backlit bamboo bones standing out in sunlight.
The rooftop bristles with men, but I, hidden woman,
below the roof of the world—I will scribble secret kites,
contraband messages, the kind prisoners smuggle to those
beyond the bars. Love me when I least deserve it,
says my love, because that is when I need it most,
so I will not be a predatory kite, talons shadowing
the scouring light. I will say that in this grip of love I will be the best
prisoner I can be. Rapt by the wind-tossed chaos
of tug and go, clasp and ignore, I will expect no Aeolian hum
to play across my lines. I will make this a proper shield kite and keep my beloved
kiting always–kiting, yes, but never off, unlike my father’s lifelong friend
on parasail whose heart gave out kiting swells of air.
Not tako kichi, kite crazy, let me stay small and humble
like a vendor who bundles kites in old papers tied with scraps of string.