This thick heat swaggers
rolls its way over the canals, the bodies
of boys burned earth brown
glistening with sweat and water
as they dive among the refuse
clogging the city’s waterways.
We cannot swim here, us college girls
in our cars and delicate clothes.
Not for us the raucous play
of boys who weave across the road
to their filthy oasis half naked
in the afternoon sun.
On the phone my father tells me
he used to play in the canals once
back when they were cleaner
and the sunshine less dusty.
He makes no wish for me
to do the same.
My starched muslins and lawns melt
into my skin and the days wrap
around me like wet sackcloth,
a dragging, dripping weight that air-
conditioning cannot lift. I think
of the boys moving in the dirty water
and wonder why staying dry feels
Nadia Niaz is a writer, editor and academic ‘from’ Melbourne via Pakistan and many other places. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies and teaches at the University of Melbourne. She’s a member of the West Writers Group and the founder of the Australian Multilingual Writing Project.