Fatima Bhutto was born in Kabul in 1982. Her father Murtaza Bhutto, son of Pakistan’s former President and Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and an elected member of parliament, was killed by the police in 1996 in Karachi during the premiership of his sister, Benazir Bhutto. Fatima graduated from Columbia University in 2004, majoring in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, and from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in 2005 with a Masters in South Asian Government and Politics. She is the author of two books: Whispers of the Desert, a volume of poetry, which was published in 1997 by Oxford University Press, Pakistan when Fatima was 15 years old. 8.50 a.m. 8 October 2005, a collection of first-hand accounts from survivors of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, was published by OUP in 2006. Her third book, Songs of Blood and Sword, will be published around the world in 2010. Fatima wrote a weekly column for Jang – Pakistan’s largest Urdu newspaper and its English sister publication The News – for two years. She covered the Israeli Invasion and war with Lebanon from Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and also reported from Iran in January 2007 and Cuba in April 2008. Fatima’s work has appeared in the New Statesman, Daily Beast, Guardian, and The Caravan Magazine. Her latest book, Songs of Blood and Sword, will be published by Jonathan Cape in Australia this spring.

            Photograph: Benjamin Loyseau
Karachi air
Breathed in through the lungs
Is sickly sweet
Like honeycomb left out to rot
In the warm, unrepentant heat.
Or else,
It is thick, smoky
Like mesquite
The evening scent of  garbarge burning
At the first break of dusk’s early light.
Mynah birds and ravens caw
A jealous chord
Singing to the street.
At midnight
I can hear the poor sweeper man
Sweep sweeping
The moonlit littered roads.
I sleep in bed
Covered in a sheet of sweat.
There is no electricity now
In this deadened August night


I trawl
Middle Eastern airlines, terminals and luggage belts
Stuck alongside students,
Honeymooners in black robes and white thobes
And slave labour, working through the night.
Hiding my name on my boarding passes,
A thumb obscuring the sight of letters, destinations and foreign nights
And inventing new fictions,
And family trees.
My legs are close to clotting
And my bags unnecessarily heavy.
Qatar, Etihad and Emirates
I count them off as lovers
I use in desperate times of need.,
Flying  out every month
Pretending that I’m free,
Subsisting on airline meals.


Parting from Karachi
At departure gates
And onwards worldwide.
I wish it well
My love unkind.
Good riddance,
Memories are dulled as the pilot starts the plane
Nostalgia side swept as stewardesses buckle belts and enquire about meal time.
From above,
Even our city’s lights
Look bright.
Even the noisy traffic
Seems mild,
The congestion meek,
The airwaves clear.
From the sky,
From a passenger plane,
Filled with labourers
Dressed in January sandals
And drinking whisky
They’d never get otherwise,
And singing ghazals
To lull them to sleep,
This mangled city,
This wretched, wretched home
Loses so much heart.
Three days later
My chest hurts for a sound
Of something familiar
An exhaust broken on a motorcycle.
The smell of the salty, smoky air.
The taste off a broken beetel nut
I’d never eat at home
And I imagine
It’s worth
Some of the time.


He moved my body
Pressing gently
On the underside of my knee.
It was winter
When he sold me,
Seventy five degrees
I sleep on tarmacs
Eyes half closed.
I have become an exile
With an open home.
My valise holds all my shirts
And coats
I’m packed for winter
Wearing summer clothes.
I left behind a country once,
I can’t remember when.


Underneath it all
I’m bare boned
Very simply alone.
On white ironed sheets
I wait,
A knock on the ceiling
A boot against the floor
Sticky remote control at the foot of the bed
I cower
Fire escapes winding under my window
And an alarm reminds me
I ordered room service way too long ago.


In nine years
I hardly wrote a red line
The crawl inside me subsided.
In the car,
Sunday, past noon,
The freeway pulled me down
And drudged up my lines.
I spoke for him,
For his embrace,
Coated with warm sweat
In a parking lot,
For the kiss,
And the scrape of his beard
As I breathed him in
One more hurried time.
So, I wrote him these lines,
But mine
I go,
Leaving him,
My only memories
Inside a kiss,
Held in by his lips
In a claustrophobic garage
In which our farewells were disguised.