I think of windows as I think of caves,
entrances perhaps to deeper places
where we huddle tight together close to
loss of life & faith, fanning embers of
ourselves to raise a last hurrah of flame
against our ever-shortening days.
We put up curtains, shutters, blinds, conspire
to guard & keep inside & just for us
what fire & light we have. Outside, out there
where dark October wears its lengthening
overcoats, each window fades from sight
& any hope of refuge from the night.
No welcome here, they say, best find another
door, another window, go away.
But not that night. That night I saw a city
ring its doors & windows full of candlelight,
each diya winking, blinking, burning with
the oxygen of sudden sumptuous life.
And the skies, a blooming rangoli of
pattern blasting winter to some other
distant hemisphere, sweet smells of kheer,
galub jamun & rasmali like welcome
mats before the tongue, an opened door
into that place, those caves you’d thought
long emptied of the basic warmth of faith.
Reason is my god, a cold & dark one
sometimes left to linger long upon the
doorstep like a peddler selling trinkets.
Then, I was selling nothing, was offered
everything as Manchester became
a festival of light in all the names
of everyone afraid of shortening days,
closed doors, inevitable giftless nights.
About this poem
In 2017, Stuart A. Paterson became the second BBC Scotland Poet in residence. ‘Diwali, Manchester 2001’ was a specially commissioned piece for Sunday Morning, and is a celebration of the religious festival of Diwali, which took place in the week a recording of the poem aired on the show.