sitting beside the old chinar
I search for the voices. The thumping
boots have shot the Bulbul I am told
by a seven year old
whose pheran is still warm.
You must visits us, he insists
seventeen odd people in a shallow dig
marked by a stone, that’s my home.
Uncle Ganie likes blue eyed people
and he knows Abu will find
us all. He promised to come
and see me play after asr prayer;
cricket matches are long at times!
I ask him about the stone.
Not the shale one near the stream
Arshad lives there, not us,
of the size of my fist,
haven’t you seen it before?
A thousand of them, I have.
All in a hurry, silence prevails,
I must go.
The curfew starts at six.
Who knows I would be shot again,
Words fly by me
like a super train on its magnetic track,
like an aircraft piercing the dead sky,
like a Shikara wading through fumigated Dal.
Nausea stirs their meaning, their form,
like fumes of an exothermic reaction,
like monsoon clouds on Himalayas,
like faces of dead in a fake encounter.
Do they fear abandonment
like the wish of every child to grow old,
like Sohni clinging on to molded clay,
like Dhoks of the detained shepherds?
English Translation by Agha Shahid Ali
It is spring, And the ledger is opened again.
From the abyss where they were frozen,
those days suddenly return, those days
that passed away from your lips, that died
with all our kisses, unaccounted.
The roses return: they are your fragrance;
they are the blood of your lovers.
Sorrow returns. I go through my pain
and the agony of friends still lost in the memory
of moon-silver arms, the caresses of vanished women.
I go through page after page. There are no answers,
and spring has come once again asking
the same questions, reopening account after account.
Lost songs of monsoon rains
echo with forgotten drumbeats.
I look for you,
in the voids,
between the beats.
The seas rolled themselves up
and now hide in memories,
vanishing like time;
yet seeping into the voids, like time.
How was it before?
Oh, not the drumbeats
but the void and memories
and the songs too.
Write about it on a paper
and roll it, into a jar,
and throw the jar onto the seas.
Let the seas remember
the first songs and the monsoon,
let the waves rumble with drumbeats,
like memories, and fill all the voids.
You have spent an age walking
Who will show you the way?
Without insight, the mind wanders
Home is just a step away.
Kabir, the seeker, drank the ghee
The world is content with buttermilk
Meticulously planned nightmares
is that what you feed,
obsolete, after the drowning
isn’t it? Faith has no
neither any twin.
Headhunting, was that the
magical potion, added in ratios
of four? Sacrilege!
The skin held inverted
pinpricks, anodes and cathodes;
the body is battery,
charged beyond circle of confusion
only then it wallows
to the heeds of broken bones,
confessional faiths and
I couldn’t hold the sunshine in me,
only the warmth of afternoon
which didn’t shy away
even in the haze of winter,
which engulfed the city
like never before.
Or maybe I let my thoughts
paint the canvas of the city
with colors of white.
I left it to overexpose
and the bright sun
wasn’t brightest anymore
and the print turned into
a giant sheet of white-
void of any borders or textures
void of existence,
which couldn’t hold back time
The loss of time
etches memory intricately
much like a miniature painting
depicting sultans and sufis
Loss of time
is yours too,
when I take off
my plastic electronic watch
and let the sounds of Ghazal
decide when the dusk enters the house,
decide if the time for goodbyes is here yet.