Noorulain Noor is a Clinical Research Manager in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also the Associate Editor of Papercuts, a publication of Desi Writers’ Lounge (DWL). DWL is a non-profit trust and online writing community for emerging South Asian writers run entirely on a voluntary basis. Noorulain is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ARDOR literary magazine, aaduna, Santa Clara Review, Poydras Review, Apeiron Review, Blue Bonnet Review, and other journals along with being nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, Noorulain now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter. She blogs about life’s little matters, and her poetry attempts to explore the broad themes of identity, multiculturalism, and the immigrant experience.
Chronology of Evil Eye
When I was seven days old,
my hair was shaven. Mother held the woolly strands,
her palms cupped in prayer under the kitchen faucet,
and let them be carried to the city’s innards.
A butcher was summoned to our house
and he slaughtered a goat for my long life.
The meat she distributed among neighbors,
and the hide she gave to the gypsies
who lived in bamboo huts at the end of the street –
they sold it for a few rupees, a meal or two.
For two more girl-babies who emerged
from the same womb, this ritual was replicated.
“No brother?” strange women said to the three of us.
“Such darling angels, such burden. Those eyes! That hair!”
Mother circled two eggs around our eyes
and broke them on a stone in the garden,
the yolks – twin suns over rock – congealed in the heat.
She touched seven red chilies to our heads
and charred them in the flame of an oil lamp,
plumes of roasted-pepper smoke gave our noses an itch.
Every fortnight, Mother
told us to put fistfuls of lentils in steel bowls,
pour milk into pails,
rice, flour, and sugar into buckets.
This bounty our hands prepared
she delivered to the neighborhood gypsies
and three beggar families that slept
under the awning of a condemned building.
In return, they gave her wild mint leaves,
hand-woven hemp baskets, and blessings.
When my brother was seven days old,
his hair was shaven. Mother saved the shorn wisps
and his shriveled umbilical cord stump
in the folds of a cotton handkerchief.
The butcher slaughtered two goats for his long life.
When he was forty-one days old,
she drove to the Ravi, shook the cloth’s contents
into the river, and looked up at the sky,
“A brother to three girls, choice-prey of evil eye,
save my son, save him, save him, save him.”