“I remember the ghost of my old wounds limping from afar” and other poems
I remember the ghost of my old wounds limping from afar
To garnish life, Death demands
jokes from wounds of fidelity.
– Nasir Kazmi
I remember the ghost of my old wounds limping from afar, hushed like a snow ridden balcony under a slate grey sky, a cloud of tears in its withered hand. I see the snow men imprisoned in the crevices of the wintered city, and hear their wails echo in the marrow of the peeling graves that dot Shaheed mazaar. I see the snow men huddled over their frozen palms reading their cries in the cotton rain, sighing into the velvet void –
Why are we content? Have we gained anything yet? In love, like Wordsworth’s daffodils, little did we know what wealth we had chanced upon? These are the roads now, these our destinations now. Perchance, we may be consoled to settle on some pretext now. Are we not following the lead of that old grainy ghazal poet who claims self-deception like self-deception prevails now, grass appears greener on our side too now?
The snowmen flare up their lanterns, and saddle the horses of their night, trusting their old nightmares to slip the pale moon past them. They beat the iron of their chains into reins, squish their songs into a cardamom memory – just the ideal flavour brewed for the Kehwa at dawn, and set off for the desert where the eleven cruel stars stand guard over the deep well of dejection, and death, humming the forgotten monarch who laments, staring at the bloodshot eyes of a dead son:
Either you should’ve fashioned an emperor of me, or forged from my crown a begging bowl for me. Why did you not make a frenzied lover of me, why choose sense for me? If humility was to be my destiny, why was I not doomed to be the dust of a lover’s lane? The heart was to be broken into a thousand pieces, so be it, why was your shoulder not lent to me? If the company of dancing dervishes was forbidden to me, was I not even fit for drunken assembly? If I was deemed worthy of inebriation from love, why was chalice of life impounded from me?
I await you at the end of this January night, for the shadow of your fallen lover to be resurrected by the tongues that scripture a song:
The truth of your beauty was beyond me, I stared a thousand times but it was beyond me.
If your joy doesn’t cloak my sorrow with joy, far be such joy from me, what is this life of fabled love to me?
Why should I pride over this quiet compliance? It found little favour with the powers that be.
All words in order, all eyes in attention. Such precautions, yet love’s cipher eludes me.
Breeze, convey this message for me: Since your departure, neither morning dawns, nor night comes to be.
I too was invited over to the beloved’s gathering. She persisted in her inquiries, not a word escaped me.
We lurk like our half-forgotten names in the half-bit tongues of our ancestors aboard the serpentine army trucks laden with almond blossom sprinkled with fresh blood, lugging it up the mountain passes to perfume a dead army. Our maimed days and scarred nights are alike, embroidering the velvet void with the paisley of death. We are not afraid now, we shed the skins of our childhood many moons back. We live with tomorrow crammed in our hollow bones. We await you, to return to you and be rid of this rain of freedom’s terrible ache.
Now there is only one regret
Now there is only one regret:
We needed no metaphors, no similes of pomegranate
to liken the wounds of our songs to.
We needed no turn on the unending road to slog on to prove
the futility of our journey nor we had even the confiscated
dust to offer and lose.
Our loss was not a row
of apple trees, blossom fingers pointing towards the direction
of our loss, nor a grove of almond trees that wept over
young cosmopolitan madness at the local hospital.
To the rain that fell on the stranger’s roof, what could
we do but stab it with the icicles of our misfortune
four times over – one each for the failed revolutions
after the guns were gunned down; end at the trail
where we began
long years ago.
Whether the sky ends or not,
we will blow off our lamps
and not wait for the moon to cry after hiding our shadows.
We will not slog on the road, any longer
tensed like cocked gun waiting to wipe the scriptures
of farewell from our face. Our steps are stray bullets. Where could
we be a moment ago but here not there?
So what do you say?
Now there is only one regret:
We needed no metaphors, no poets to mourn.
It was the year of brilliant water when you threw
Us out from your gathering, and the unease crept back
into our torn hearts. Again
we sought an appointment with your poems
under the porcelain moon,
which crumbled in the cold of our hands.
We owe you a return to the hysterical grief of our
lovers, to the exiles from the face of your faded letters,
or a surrender to the hand of old disconsolate enemies.
Where do you take us over the steep slopes of our stars
in the silver of dawn? We will sleep on the beds of old chandeliers,
and dream of flowers in the vanished paradise.
We will write our exile in the unlettered wind.
Awaken the stars, sword and the flute. Retract your song
and pray a cure floods your eyes, red as our rivers,
just as Ghalib predicted before the massacre.
Like impoverished lovers after the massacre,
we were scattered as dust on the roads
to the promised revolution, a forgotten
memory of musk. How long more can we
guard this heart in the eye of the tyranny
of the storm of hope?
What have we borne, what must be borne still?
How long will you withhold your memory?
The season of sight and hope is long past, and
the dust of the stars caresses the rebel face of despair
in the heart. When will the cloud of pain burst down?
If only the heart were a sparrow, it would fly
to the distant star of the songs of victory of enemies,
for defeat is indeed a forlorn friend.
After putting on new clothes
After putting on new clothes, where will I go?
Who should I braid my hair for?
That person has long left the town,
who shall I go out for now?
The sunshine that nestled shade in its heart
left alongside him
In these bristling lanes,
who shall I rake the dust for now?
When he was in town,
I had to meet others for his sake
For who should I bear the whims
of these people now?
No one can replace him in the city now
none like him to kiss life into a ghazal
For who shall I adorn with vases of verses
the hallowed halls of poetry now?
No one has looked in since long –
Desolation weeps on the walls of the house now
In these empty rooms, Nasir,
who shall I light candles for now?
Limitless series of Loneliness
Limitless series of loneliness will remain
between you and me
Just a vast emptiness will remain
between you and me.
All shadows will be washed away
in the warm flood of sunshine
Yet, someone will be left staring
into depths of icy waters.
I am faced with such a journey,
my love, my fellow traveller:
even if the road were to run out
the distances will still remain.
The world will sleep
wrapped in the blanket of silence.
The pale moon will be left
wide awake in lonely courtyards.
‘Nasir’, those books she read
after borrowing them from me.
My name will lie written
on the flyleaf of those books.
Bekaraan tanhaiyon ka silsila reh jayega
tere mere darmiyan bas ek khala reh jayega
(khala – space, distance, vacuum)
aks beh jayenge saare dhoop ke sailaab mein
aur koi paanion mein jhaankta reh jayega
muhjko mere humsafar aisa safar darpesh hai
raasta kat bhi gaya to faasla reh jayega
log so jayenge khamoshi ki chaadar od kar
chaand soone aanganon mein jaagta reh jayega
jo kabhi usne padi thi mujhse ‘Nasir’ maang kar
naam mere un kitaabon mein likha reh jayega
Artist’s Note: I really don’t know what to say in them? How do I write poetry? Just like everyone else does? Something comes up or causes me to think, and I write about it. Statements – absolutely not. I have no statements for readers or anyone. The poems are their own statements without any qualifications.
Huzaifa Pandit is the author of Green is the Colour of Memory which won the first edition of Rhythm Divine Poets Chapbook Contest 2017. Besides, he is the winner of several poetry contests like Glass House Poetry Competition and Bound Poetry Contest. Born and raised in Kashmir, his poems alternate between despair, defiance, resistance and compliance as they seek to make sense of a world in turmoil. His inspirations in poetry can be guessed from the topic of his PhD: “Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Agha Shahid Ali and Mahmoud Darwish – ” Poetics of Resistance” pursued at University of Kashmir. His poems, translations, interviews, essays and papers have been published in various journals like Indian Literature, PaperCuts, Life and Legends, Jaggery Lit, JLA India, Punch and Noble/Gas Quarterly.
Illustration: Alolika Dutta