Saturday, September 17, 2011

Floating Post-Office

Floating Post- Office

Yes,there is a post office
Where letters are posted
Written in blood
On wet sheets
The water in the dal lake is ruthless
it dissolves the salt in the tears
so all that’s left of expressions
is water
plain water
the crimson camouflages with the colours of the lotus
still standing upright on wide green leaves
leaves that hide muck and swamp under  their span
the post office does not stand on hard concrete grounds
concrete is easier to destroy
what can your bullets do in thick,swampy waters?
Sharpen them,make them razor sharp
You cannot read the ink on wet paper
Impalpable is the fluidity of my thoughts
I let my heart float in the Dal Lake


Agha Shahid Ali's poems

From tomb to tomb,
I chew the ash of prayers.
Won’t poetry happen to me?

Caught in the lanes of history,
don’t I qualify now?

I have even seen Allah in rags
extend the earth like a begging bowl.

The Two-Nation Theory is dead
But the old don’t forget.

In this city of refugees,
trains move like ghosts.
The old don’t forget.

My friend’s grandfather,
hoarder of regrets,
cautions: Those Muslim butchers:
Be careful, they stab you in the back.
I lost my beloved Lahore.

My friend and I are rather simple:
We never saw the continent divide.

The streets light up
with the smiles of beggars.
Words fail me,

for I need a harsh language.
But I’m comfortable
like an angry editor.

I carry the beggar-woman’s hunger
in my hand

as her eyes follow me to my poems,
follow me into the coffee house
where I’m biting into her,

eating morsels of her night.
The bootblack brushes my shoes:
Does my heart beat in my feet?

His knuckes carry the memory
of this city.
My shoes shine like death

as I wait at the bus stop
for Delhi’s dome of sweat
to break into a monsoon of steel
and rip my Achilles heel.

Believe me,
he sat here in this dirt corner
winter and summer, winter, summer.

This morning he wasn’t there
with his ancient beard
and his stretched-out hand.

The sweeper said he took him away
with the morning garbage.

A safe distance of smells.
The restaurant airconditioned,
I drink my beer.

Outside the beggars
laze in empty tins,
peeling the sun,
their used beer-can.

Waiter, get me another beer!

AT JAMA MASJID, DELHIImagine: Once there was nothing here.
Now look how minarets camouflage the sunset.
Do you hear the call to prayer?
It leaves me unwinding scrolls of legend
till I reach the first brick they brought here.
How the prayers rose, brick by brick?

Shahjahan knew the depth of stones,
how they turn smooth rubbed on a heart.
And then? Imprisoned
with no consoling ghosts,
bent with old age,
while his cirgin daughter Jahanara
dressed the cracked marble reign
his skin kept up for so long.

Between two saints he shares the earth,
Mohammad Shah Rangeele
(evoked in monsoon khayals).
The beggar woman kisses the marble lattice,
sobs and sobs on Khusro’ pillars.
In a corner Jahanara, garbed in the fakir’s grass,
mumbles a Sufi quatrain.

We recline on the gravestone,
or on the saint’s poem, unaware
of the sorrow of the pulverized prayer.

Time has only its vagrant finger.
Knowing no equal, it pauses for massacres.

Suffering has its familiar patterns:

We buy flowers for Nizammudin’s feet,
dream in the corner to the qawwal’s beat.
The saint’s song chokes in his throat.

The poor tie prayers with threads,
accutomed to their ancient wish
for the milk and honey of Paradise.

I’ve learnt some lessons the easy way:
I’ve seen so many, even a child somewhere,
his infant bones hidden forever.

Stone, grass, children turned old:
The dead have no ghosts.

These are time’s relics, its suffered epitaphs:

I come here to sing Khusro’s songs.
I burn to the end of the lit essence
as kings and beggars arise in the smoke:

That drunk debauched colourful king
dances again with hoofs of sorrow

as Nadir skins the air with swords,
horses galloping
to the rhythm
of a dying

The muezzin interrupts the dawn, calls
the faithful to prayer with a monster-cry:

We walk through streets calligraphed with blood.

THE JAMA MASJID BUTCHERUrdu, bloody at his lips
and fingertips, in this
soiled lane of Jama Masjid,

is still fine, polished
smooth by the generations.

He doesn’t smile but
accepts my money
with a rare delicacy

as he hacks the rib of History.
His courtesy grazes

my well-fed skin
(he hangs this warm January morning
on the iron hook of prayer).

We establish the bond of phrases,
dressed in the couplets of Ghalib.

His life is this moment,
a century’s careful image.

THE EDITOR REVISITEDYou still haven’t called me a poet, Dear Sir,
and I’ve been at it,
this business of meanings, sometimes delayed,

selling words in bottles, at times in boxes.
I began with a laugh, stirred my tea with English,
drank India down with a faint British accent,
temples, beggars, and dust
spread like marmalade on my toast:

A bitter taste: On Parliament Street
a policeman beat a child on the head.
Hermaphrodites walked by in Saffron saris,

their drums eching a drought-rhythm.
The Marxists said,
In Delhi English sounds obscene.
Return to Hindi or Bengali, eachword will burn
like hunger.

A language must measure up to one’s native dust.
Divided between two cultures, I spoke a language foreign even to my ears;
I diluted it in a glass of Scotch.

A terrible trade, my lip service to Revolution
punctuated by a whisly-god.

Now collecting a degree in English,
will I embrace my hungry country
with an armful of soliloquies?

This trade in words continues however as
Shakespeare feeds my alienation.

Please note, Dear Sir, my terrible plight
as I collect rejection slips
from your esteemed journal.

. . . letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.
- Gerard Manley Hopkins


Again I’ve returned to this country
where a minaret has been entombed.
Someone soaks the wicks of clay lamps
in mustard oil, each night climbs its steps
to read messages scratched on planets.
His fingerprints cancel blank stamps
in that archive for letters with doomed
addresses, each house buried or empty

Empty? Because so many fled, ran away,
and became refugees there, in the plains,
where they must now will a final dewfall
to turn the mountains to glass. They’ll see
us through them see us frantically bury
houses to save them from fire that, like a wall,
caves in. The soldiers light it, hone the flames,
burn our world to sudden papier-mâché

inlaid with gold, then ash. When the muezzin
died, the city was robbed of every Call.
The houses were swept about like leaves
for burning. Now every night we bury
our houses and theirs, the ones left empty.
We are faithful. On their doors we hang wreaths.
More faithful each night fire again is a wall
and we look for the dark as it caves in.


We’re inside the fire, looking for the dark,
one unsigned card, left on the street, says. I want
to be he who pours blood. To soak your hands.
Or I’ll leave mine in the cold till the rain
is ink, and my fingers, at the edge of pain,
are seals all night to cancel the stamps.
The mad guide! The lost speak like this. They haunt
a country when it is ash. Phantom heart,

pray he’s alive. I have returned in rain
to find him, to learn why he never wrote.
I’ve brought cash, a currency of paisleys
to buy the new stamps, rare already, blank,
to buy the new stamps, rare already, blank,
no nation named on them. Without a lamp
I look for him in houses buried, empty
He may be alive, opening doors of smoke,
breathing in the dark his ash-refrain:

Everything is finished, nothing remains.
I must force silence to be a mirror
to see his voice, ask it again for directions.
Fire runs in waves. Should I cross that river?
Each post office is boarded up. Who will deliver
parchment cut in paisleys, my news to prisons?
Only silence can now trace my letters
to him. Or in a dead office the dark panes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


You are nervous
No i'm not
Yes you are
No i'm not
I know you are
How can you say that
You have no idea where you are going
That's because the lights are blinking on either side
so you're nervous
it's all because of you
forget it
and she maneuvered her way through the busy roads
the light behind her 
casting a shadow in front
she could not fathom the distance of that silence
Nostalgia engulfed her
she drove in silence
hey i'm not that bad a driver
if only the two lights were not blinking
you would have known what direction i was taking
without me having to tell you
that the birds need to rest after a flight
what do they do in a wireless world!


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Fish in the Sea is not Thirsty

    n fact, no mind is needed to see that which 
        In fact, no mind is needed to see that which 
          In fact, no mind is needed to see that which is. Mind means thoughts. And if there is a traffic of thoughts, you will never be able to see what is, you will see something else. You will see what your thoughts allow you to see. Your thoughts prevent much reaching you. You will be surprised to know what modern psychological researchers have come to know: ninety-eight percent of the reality is not allowed to enter in your being; the mind only allows two percent. So whatsoever you see is only two percent of the reality. And because the mind allows only two percent of the reality in and then gives you the feeling that this is the whole, you live in a false world. You think the part is the whole. And you live accordingly  your whole life becomes a falsification...
          The Fish in the Sea is not Thirsty 

Sketches in literature

Sketches in literature : Shamim Hanafi writes definitive profiles of writers, evaluating their contribution