The fruit trees in the playground are not dead. They breathe through naked branches this season of frost and mourning. The school returned belongings — canvas backpacks laden with books, fountain pens, geometry sets, homework notes for some date in the future, perhaps a lunch box never opened, uneaten sandwiches stale now, an apple still glossy, but smelling sickly sweet, on the cusp of ripeness and rot. Their mothers are not dead, but may as well be, their disbelief crowns bereavement — they only went to school. That morning must be no different in collective memory — starch pressed uniforms, breakfast, clumps of fog in the air, dry tendrils of winter, the friction of tires across asphalt, children waving goodbye. A dead man’s wife is a widow, a child of dead parents is an orphan. But in the aftermath, there is no noun for the parents — even language cannot cradle such grief.
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. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ARDOR literary magazine, aaduna, Santa Clara Review, Poydras Review, Apeiron Review, Blue Lyra Review, Blue Bonnet Review and other journals. Her work has been 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.