Two poems by Moniza Alvi

Two extracts from At the Time of Partition
      17   And Where?

Pakistan! the crowd roared.
Pakistan Zindabad! Long live Pakistan!

This country – her country.
A nation in its instability,

one that could change lives
with the suddenness of a blow to the head.

And Jinnah – his photograph was everywhere,
in the newspaper, on crumbling walls.

Jinnah, in his elegant Western-style suit.
As handsome as Nehru, she thought,

but too thin. He was ill –
some said he was dying.

Jinnah who’d had his doubts,
had once striven for unity,

but who now stood supreme,
the Father of the Nation

                  A state in which we could live and breathe
                  as free men…

Mohammed Ali Jinnah. And her lost son.
At rest in the afternoon, or on waking

she might picture them both,
one superimposed on the other.


Her country, and the other. The border
tantalisingly close.

At first easy to cross, no passports required.
Then increasingly hard.

The ever-disputed border.
       18   Partition of Hearts

They called it the Partition of Hearts,
this dark side of Independence.

Blame the British, blame Congress,
blame Nehru, blame Jinnah.

But what was the point?

They called it the Partition of Hearts.

Yet connections had not been broken,
not quite –

between  Pakistan and India
                                      the living and the dead

the families and the missing
                                      the people and themselves.

They called it the Partition of Hearts –
this Partition of reinforced glass.
Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan and grew up in Hertfordshire. At the Time of Partition, a book-length poem in 20 parts, inspired by family history, is published by Bloodaxe. It was shortlisted for the 2013 T.S. Eliot Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Choice.