Pagri (Turbans): A Poem by Kashiana Singh

All my writing was born into

the folds of my father’s pagri

one in each fold of his khaki—

cotton, starched, smooth, sturdy

I attempted to shape stanzas with

my tongue, while my hands pulled,

stretched, unbound all the 6 yards

of cloth, unfurling beginnings

I proudly held at one end on

mornings when I was called

upon to help twist the length

the landscape of that moment

had a spirituality, a gravitas, it

snatched at my throat, settling

into creased circles, my voice

had so much to say, instead in

quiet observation I gave it all

my care, all my curiosity—

His prayer had a very specific

tempo, I never dared disturb it

I saw an intimate conversation

sprouting into the empty spaces

of teacher and disciple, unsaid.

A sacred hum became audible

I heard stories being revealed

as elders sang hymns in waves

gentle metaphors were formed

in faith as a circular wrapping

folded and unfolded words, they

became mine, unborn into me as

I held the fabric taut, was taught

letters, my fingers at the edge

of a long pagri he so reticently

pulled at the other, tugging just

so, he said to me each time we

symmetrically styled a turban

in performance together —

“you, my daughter, my poem”

~Kashiana Singh

A Note on Pagri – Pagri, and its different transliterated variations is the term for turban worn by different communities in the Indian subcontinent. It specifically refers to a headdress that is worn by men and women, which needs to be manually tied. In this particular poem, the reference is to the turban worn by Sikh men and the ritual of tying, wearing and pride associated with the pagri. As the years evolve the pagri becomes a metaphor for many complex cultural and familial intersections that the poet has experienced and associates with this word and its rituals – both the physical act of tying, the bonding with a father and the symbol of strength, empowerment, creativity and spiritual grounding this word and its image has offered the speaker and others like her.

This poem was written by Kashiana Singh, and is part of a recent full-length collection called “Woman by the Door” published by Apprentice House Press.

Author Bio: When Kashiana is not writing, she lives to embody her TEDx talk theme of Work as Worship into her every day. She currently serves as Managing Editor for Poets Reading the News. Her chapbook Crushed Anthills by Yavanika Press is a journey through 10 cities. Her newest full-length collection, Woman by the Door released in Feb 2022 with Apprentice House Press and Pagri is a poem from this collection.

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