After Kafir-e-ishqam & Other Poems

by Sonali Raj

After Kafir-e-ishqam, Amir Khusrau c. 1200 AD in Persian

I am a pagan worshiper of love; it isn’t islam that I need
My every vein runs taut as a wire; the brahman’s thread is not what I need
Leave my bedside o naïve physician
Only the beloved can be tonic for this wound
Though the boat has no captain, wayward it won’t be,
I shall row; sails are not what this ship needs
People say Khusrao believes in witchcraft;
Yes, I do; it is not people that I need.

 

Son

She told us how he would come home
with muddy shoes on dry days; how he

lay across the divan, his feet sticking out,
in everyone’s way.

when she caught us dozing, curled up in the sun
to read, as he did.

She cried when he called.
Twenty seven years had altered his voice.

 

The Prince of Deeg

My palace is made of crystals and butter,
rooms carved into the hill overlook a tank.
Cool air runs along channels by cave rooms,
There is a moat on the other side of the fort.

Last winter I caught painted stork, cormorant, ibis,
an Eurasian coot. I brought them to live with me.
They show up in winter, I wanted them all the year.
Some are still in the tank, tepid water at their talons.

Swarming with orange black fish, I watch
a shadow of lattice in sandstone, here as I sit
In my pavilion, an Englishman by me.
He reclines upon an elbow. His rifle behind us.

He says, about those that escaped, they were
torn by vultures outside the fort.

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