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The Kites In Rajasthan
Aisling Smith (Monash University, Australia)



Sunset in Rajasthan and a hundred kites are over Jaipur City
Not kites of feather and claw, but manmade imposters
Cellophane idols trying to ape the majesty of bird flight
From the white strings which tether them to kids’ wrists

The kites are struggling to break their fine leashes,
straining for freedom. They hate to get so close
but not be allowed to drift into the atmosphere—
it breaks their little crepe-paper hearts

Playing card patterns printed on cardboard, spades and hearts
Or frugal fragments: wrappers from chip packets and Coke cans
Resurrected as kites with simple sticks to crucify their wooden spines
But this place is richer for these precious plastic diamonds

Pathang is their Hindi name and the street sellers call it to me
Graceful handed vendors, hope in their eyes, point to their wares
and their fingers make shapes like classical Kathak dancers
Pathang! Pathang! And my hand protects my wallet

They crowd around but do not expect me to stop
they wait for my eyes to skim past them, as vacant as if
I were in the sanitised stasis of a moving car
As if I believed the meeting of our pupils would be dangerous

When the sunset ignites again, the sky cycles violent flame,
but these brash coloured clouds cannot impress me now,
neither the ferocity of orange nor the tenderness of lilac—
it is brighter in the streets, where the women dress in silks

Now strangers stand alongside, wheeling their artificial pets
from a hundred different roof tops in the old city and the new
More people cluster together at windows to look out
A game for vicarious watchers in vivid dresses

Somewhere I had forgotten the wonder of a kite
It had withered to some desiccated Mary Poppins memory
But these kids are wiser and understand the kite is no plastic pet
It’s your Peter-Pan desire, it’s a tiny sliver of self up there

So many faces are turned upwards to the sky
and I do the same
A pink sky, a pink city
A hundred kites above



Aisling Smith is a Melbourne based writer. She is also a doctoral candidate in Literary Studies at Monash University, an editor of the 2017 Verge Anthology and co-editor-in-chief of Colloquy: text, theory, critique.

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