A Poem by Ather Zia

Driving Without a License (lasan) in Kashmir

The law has much blood on its talons. It’s especially ethical if you don’t have a lasan. Between background checks and grease-money, the lasan, leaking from the law’s stained teeth, is what you need, get it maybe never.

Anyways, it’s a contrivance, a measure of know-how over a vehicle to transport people in metal boxes when you already carry them in your heart, like your boy who died of a bullet that grazed your chest and entered his.

In Kashmir when you drive without a lasan you drive on the right side of life.

I sleep to dreams of being a young, irascible driver from Maisuma, the invincible artery, throwing stones at paramilitary his happiest past-time (being with a Neruda or a Said is not always the best you can dream),
fed on a staple

diet of an adoring mother’s curses. I am terribly in love and sore from heartache – without a lasan but that is my last worry – probably till I have no money to bribe policemen who catch me every time I stop like a stone

unwarranted outside my beloved’s house, not that she cares. 
I drive singing to
old Bollywood songs and cursing India in the same breath. Wishing every bunker melting away like I believe, without license.

Ather Zia is a poet trained as a journalist and an anthropologist. She has published a book of poems titled “The Frame” and her creative work has been published in Convergence, Blazevox, 3 Quarks, SAMAR, Cerebrations and other journals. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado and is also the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit.

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