The Art of Conversation
by Zehra Munir | May 21, 2019
This table is heavy, laden
with your pithy thoughts.
You gurgle your Pinot Grigio as you laugh,
apple crumble sliding down, easy does it,
two halves each
one ought to leave at nine
it does not do in this place
to overstay one’s welcome
and you’ll have waxed your lyrical
on populism, gilets jaunes,
stripped citizens and fighter jets
and finish for this night.
These flickering candles are tasteful
your words are soaked in their warmth, there is love and
you’re all so kind and I’ve enjoyed myself so very much, but
There is a crumbling city five thousand miles from here, where there are foggy evenings steeped in chai. There are aunties who dropped by this morning and stayed for lunch, starting their stories of being young and beautiful, in a space that was theirs alone; they speak of weddings and tailor trips – wars are a backdrop to their shared biopic, a lament for lost time, yet still they laugh like maniacs, all the while soaked in an electric warmth.
It goes on, repartee like no other,
hours slip by but my lesson continues
in the art of conversation, in a classroom
five thousand miles from home.
They understand your populism;
they’ve seen it in gaon ki politics,
philosophy over aloo kay parathay,
growing up in golden fields,
watching it all play out in cycles,
rolling round and round again.
So you will forgive me that I remember
times when times were better,
when the space we were in was beloved
and there was no curfew.
– you will forgive me for being
nostalgic for talk that never ends.
Poem by Zehra Munir. Illustration by Léa Gayer de Mena.