How often must we arise from this seed
Yellow, nutted, moon-spent, tree-withered,
The seed splits and leaves climb out, thus flow tears,
Time spreads like disease, the swell of mood hangs
Over split seed—
Hands, legs, tongue, hair—bodies roam about in space
The city is abluster, automobiles now have faces,
The city where eyes wander, where stones are broken,
Where language has no home: ‘Drive Slow’, ‘Kanti Sweets’,
‘Herculean Builders’, ‘Pasta Street’; the city where the hand
betrays the leg, the mouth betrays the eye, where the ground
breaks like seed, but nothing climbs out, thus flow tears—
Between us great distances hang in the smallest of words:
‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘of course’; sometimes dictionaries are the end
of meaning; the garbage dump got cleared; we ache to know
wherefrom we speak; how often must we arise from this seed?
Afternoon flows out of the sun’s tongue:
the day is some kind of speech.
Iggalur, or Far from the City
The fields are woven from hands, air, water and sun,
The eyes of stalks gleam in the afternoon
The trunks of trees offer vertical hold
Far from the city, from the sleep of human beings,
Time goes into the body of plants
So full is this passage that night too is left undreamt
Time is eaten—and plants grow.
After Paul Celan
Keep your words married to their sense, the sense married to absence.
Don’t lead them too far astray, hollowed, searching for their point of emergence.
But if they search for their shadows, let them, for shadows are what bind them to breath.
A word is a stone without its breath.
A meeting like one where the sky and earth meet
is illusory, we all know
The sky and earth walk together in their meeting
Their meeting being a not-meeting;
Our bodies are held in curtains:
The azaan, the temple bells, the chants next door
leave a gold rush that is too bright on them.
Our bodies, when they meet, must walk together
The legs with legs
Hands with hands
My language cupped in yours—
That gold dust torn off must envelop us in a far circle
Minting fresh moments like chants.
No, our bodies shall not chime, they shall not sing
They shall not announce any god
Like the blush of sky and earth in embrace at sunset
Our bodies will shiver warm at the passing of time
Mark day and night, become sun and moon.
They shall be held in curtains too.
Make time from the joyous tinny screams of children
Bathing in afternoon sun
Sew time from the leaves holding out to the afternoon
Belting the terraces of low houses
Rising like invisible ears
The crow looks askance. The truth is here.
Make space for the shearing of time
The glass-pulp of action froths to the top
The dove that floated in its sky will be lost
Scene from a First-floor Window
Over the treetops comes a surge
that swallows the eyesight of dreamers
The construction workers have wet their feet
in ditch water; one lights a cigarette
and launches into a tale for the other
They sit on a slab and wait for the afternoon darkness
to bleed; the koel has come visiting, but you almost
forget to hear her, the green of the trees runs into her voice;
The rattle of implements has a sharper sting; clotheslines
become forlorn and balconies begin to be besieged;
The earth had been asking her due with iron stillness
Now way’s made to cure her of her bitter agony.
We are in flames…
We are in flames
Very often the evening spars
And the night is a cauldron for little fires
The splinters come from everywhere
Sparks dripping about the construction worker
The crackling voices of playing children
The television makes other fires in homes;
You and I are hands aclap
Your words are fists that turn like keys
The locks are between us.
And that blesséd word with no meaning—who will utter it?
—Agha Shahid Ali
stars vanishing into nothingness
stop and turn back to participate
in the utterance of your name
that becomes the element of time
your name breaks into numerous syllables
and with it brings suffering to sound
the stars race against the shatter,
against time, holding your name together
your name engulfs the splicing of days
the morning, a dewdrop from your name
the night, a pod for your name
your name bristles under the earth
leaving the ground groundless
far from the concert of stars
fall crystals of duration
hours and days spent in your name
Which kind of flesh have you found pierced in the encounter?
You and I, suppurating leaves falling from a naked tree
Cut off, with blood sap
We were never joined, and now finding our midribs in line
Our flesh disappears, the green grows distant
We have grown eyes