Ghazal and Other Poems

by Rizwan Akhtar

Ghazal: A Corner

Disillusioned with crowd I escorted you to a corner
Ghazals also wanted a change so hid in the corner
Inside dark Lahore Fort voices simmered on pillows
a Moghul princess ran frantically for a lonely corner
Scheherazade concocted love to woo Sheheryar
a murderer crouching in heart, visible in a corner
bent over a plinth in Taj Mahal Shah Jehan weeps
but kills lovers of his daughter, secreting in a corner
River Ravi is dense with some litter and some history
shaggy buffaloes wipe snouts, cattlemen in a corner
Ghalib’s Majnoon is naked and disheveled for Lalia
What else our mystic Mir lives with tears in a corner
I will see if I can provide more than an English version
Beloved is smarter to find out Urdu left in a corner
See! outside in open places you stare me too much
But in the glare of room, face covered, in a corner
In the narrow lanes of Lahore love flutters in thin kites
Some fell short of chords, others steal kisses in a corner
the younger ones wear anklets and show curves of bodies
a flabby courtesan over a worn out Sitar croons in a corner
the evening azan brings back all wandering pigeons on ponds
in the The Royal Mosque heads covered we settle in a corner
Now ghazals want an extra attention after you lurched them
The poet waits loyally for couplets and your eyes in a corner.


In Times of Sit-in

(Islamabad 2014)

The night is solid black, a reliable mask
never to rumble people sleep stone-heavy

after what happened to their lives, broken bones
wrenched flesh, cameras spied on faces

under the husky thinness of a dolling moon
language did the rest of clubbing

in portable beds drinking from greasy cups
tongue liberated on music under sudden rains

at a distance generators groaned crazily
a parliament of deaf fueled a choric anger

when a nightjar ripped their complacency.
I am born in silence. The fake cries

were of wrapped prostitutes in murky cars
hobbled on green belts, and appeased

my desire of an adventurous love while
mouths were kidnapped, and jagged words

swished like cutlasses, when mosquitoes
pinched earlobes and I chafed knuckles

there was no one to choreograph the climax
with a shut gate of a big house in front of me.



There is a pause
clearly as winter’s rain
patter skins and evoke
overlapping on
scrubbed faces.

Eyes drought-like
flood spaces—
midday of elbows
afternoon of arms
evening of hands
night of stares
a skeleton of passion
well-fed and hefty
over a long unheeding day.

So few atoms of happiness
in a cyclical season
and a past clinging
like an electromagnetic field.
The world asks too much
only elusiveness can work
then it will be over.


Lahore: A Pictorial Triptych

A dusty sky is a drab desire
endless lines of cars
one upon the other copulating
roads creak under their lust—
a beggar mutters verses and then stares
for the sake of sonorous effect
after a pause he yells a dramatized misery
displaying his broken limbs
in an amphitheater of honkers.

City’s trees are scared children
brawny workers axe
darkness fosters,
subways are sacred temples
late night they have the look
of an orphan.
Electricity poles stand
like ancient gods
still and stubborn,
silence adapts faces
wedded by fate or will.

Sometimes we find surprises
Sometimes people smile, care about words
something precious in this chaos
the way a painter imagines climax
on a riddled canvas.



(Lahore 2016)

Like an obscure story winter’s haze takes over the lawn
unhinged scripts clouds resist dissolution against darkness
there in the middle I stand like a fiction for a better closure
patchy and provocative grassy trails vanish into pauses
just as words want separation from a stressed day
after staying on a blinking monitor when electricity fails,
during that dark moment rooms have nothing but a silence
there you are in front of me staring at an ashtray with stubs
all over cold verandas echoing boots take away attention
behind a certain limit it does not matter if you look back or not
December continues on a rhetorical pace removing many
Some lay clearly exposed, others just disappear, after me.

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