16. hawa mahal

In the Palace of the Winds, the staircases are narrow
and everyone stops to touch my hair.

Stained-glass light flickers across dusty feet.
In the days of the rajas
the women paced their days away
in dresses heavy with jewels,
weighting them down to remind them
that they were of the earth
and not of stars.

“Purdah sounds miserable,” Samantha says,
as she kneels to open the slats in the windows,
the only door we would have had to the city,
Our tour guide mops his brow
and says the maharanis sat at these windows
to peer out at the outside world
without being seen, the glorious
novelty of invisibility afforded:
watching bookcarts elephants centuries
hungrily through ruby sapphire emerald panes.


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