April 12, 2007

Ahmed Al Safi



Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar
—Laurence Hope


Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell

before you agonize him in farewell tonight?

Pale hands that once loved me beside the Shalimar:

Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?


Those “Fabrics of Cashmere—” “to make Me beautiful—”

“Trinket”—to gem—”Me to adorn—How—tell”—tonight?


I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates—

A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.


Executioners near the woman at the window.

Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.


Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be broken,

Only we can convert the infidel tonight.


Has God’s vintage loneliness turned to vinegar?

He’s poured rust into the Sacred Well tonight.


In the heart’s veined temple all statues have been smashed.

No priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonight.


He’s freed some fire from ice, in pity for Heaven;

he’s left open—for God—the doors of Hell tonight.


And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee—

God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.


Agha Shahid Ali


From :
The Country Without A Post Office
(W.W. Norton and Co., 1997)





BJ Adams