42 Days

By Nadeem Aslam

The mosque floating like a collection of vases in the drizzle.

The child’s two hands moving along the bookshelf, half deciding on a book before sliding it back in place, as though experimenting with the keys of a piano.

The train passing through three tunnels in the distance like a needle picking up beads to thread a rosary.

Four butterflies in the tree in July, their underwings green. Visible invisible visible invisible – they blink in out of existence as they fly amid the leaves.

The rose shedding five crimson notes onto the grass in the silence of dusk.

Six footprints in snow, a thin sheet of packed ice at the base of each. And through it the flat yellow leaves lying on the ground are visible, as though sealed behind glass.

Three girls up to their waists in the calm lake: the reflection of each making her appear two headed like a queen on a playing card, right side up either way.

A vinyl record with seven songs by Count Basie, his genius so unmistakable the stylus seems to be travelling not through the grooves but the very whorls of his fingerprint.

Condensation on all eight windowpanes freezing into sparkling bird feathers during the night. Into insect wing and leaf skeleton. As though the house contains a magical forest.

THESE ARE THE FORTY-TWO THINGS I DO NOT SEE BECAUSE MY HEAD IS TURNED TOWARDS THE PATH ALONG WHICH YOU MIGHT RETURN.