you see the first word

you see the first word of the day and you think
there’s a poem

you see the rabbit grasp a straw and you think
there’s war

you see melting showers of sun and you think
there’s wisdom

you see flower combing flower and you think
there’s pollen

you see pollen being wise and you think this is
a war poem


Comprador       at the behest of/agent/informant
                the belief that trees are forever in debt to nature
                sups with fire but never befriends for fear of burn
                touches sky with teflon lips then goes aah
		argues with birds telling them song is microfinanced
                   by the ministry of chirp

the dialectics of poetic confusion

The great unwashed in the park – what is it that makes it so easy to classify the classes? women, children, some veiled, some garish, a festive group visiting this tiny walkpark of mine in this far off city nook     love imagines lives a little different from what privilege has taught from the pulpit     imagines lives of care, of concern for their sisters, brothers, younguns     yuN na tha maiN ne faqat chaaha tha yuN hojaae? 1     no stretch of imagination to immortalize the beaming smiles – under duress too – of my park lot

meanwhile my lot festers unabashed in connivances of convenience, contempt for the sake of bile     the unparked ones are the ones that worry me, the platitudes of concern, the beatific biles

the driver happily blocking the road with his car while talking to a friend     entitled shout: baap ka road hai? 2     I see joyful camaraderie that cares not a whit for a car or two stacked up behind     the pulpit snivels civility     love shakes her head     tao is good to the good as well as bad, lao tzu sages, so shall I accommodate the pulpit, the snivel?

or shall I retreat to my khanqah while the mongols of the day bludgeon away?     our great master prescribed nothing but – this much history teaches about rumi3, trying to spirit away solidarity by trivializing the mundane, the unwashed     easier perhaps to be a holy ostrich than to imagine lives of care, concern, sister, brother

yuN na tha maiN ne faqat chaaha tha yuN hojaae

1. “Wasn’t thus, I merely wished it so” – a line from Faiz, iconic Pakistani revolutionary poet who made no secret of his admiration for another “great poet of the east”, Iqbal, who in turn made no secret of his admiration for Nietzche’s superman: the dialectics of poetic confusion.

2. “Is this your father’s road?” A common phrase that like so many others can never be adequately translated.

3. Point raised by the Iranian revolutionary, Ali Shariati. A valid point echoed so many times in history when the gatekeepers of culture/morality/civility/whatnot have been hands-in-glove with despots.


who can speak to the strum of yellow
dirt but river-thirst?

every turn of heaven-stroll knows the
cost of beginnings

and yet it browns the word-wisp, the
heart-thorn &

the torn-lisp – we speak to this strum,
this distant

yellow, this breaden stream striven to
breach the word –

the words & the bees

1. this is the interregnum, these here are the symptoms
2. this is the era of the warring states
3. the coefficient of injustice is two minutes to midnight
4. a bent arc of history is not a broken arc
5. the dream of the butterfly will connect the words and the bees

1. “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear” – Antonio Gramsci

2. The era in ancient Chinese history when Lao Tsu and Chuang Tsu, the two seminal Taoists, expounded.

3. “It is still two minutes to midnight” – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – The Doomsday Clock

4. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King

5. Chuang Tsu’s Butterfly Dream parable

Poet as prose

The poet as prose
   can be  but only so far -
           prose should aim to be clear, direct: mince

words and that's rhetoric, hand-waving -
   logic   requires straight lines, a
           few curves maybe, but strictly geometric (solvable

preferably in finite time, boundaries &
   all)    the poem hints, the lines are
           blurred, the curves speak to the birds, mix 

with blood & birth & then return to where 
   word    greets word, and the light that
           seeps in with each flight of dark is unconfined by 

space & time, yet bound by the liminality of 
   joy     straggling behind     this burn
           of light is just   its uncertain incomprehensiveness


Earlier today I was trying to explain to my daughter, Amina, how I saw prose vis-a-vis poetry and how they intermingle. Amu understandably found my vagueness vague, so I wrote this poem.

Grappling with Paz

it is useful at times to figure where a poet’s thrust lies, the resultant vector, the primary determinant of all that can be poetically trusted to stand in for the poet – “a poet is primarily a poet, art for art’s sake, no?” – no – Paz ambassadored India, monkeyed around with gods and grammar – letting his guard down it seems on caste (a poet appraising a poet needs to be watchful – these days more so) – pound & eliot (& others) bamboozled along the fascist way and got called out by a precious few (not by Paz though who admired eliot; a poet appraising a poet needs to be watchful) and the imprint of that carelessness is this brilliant void of the nihilist poem, all that passes off for a poem these days (watchful yet?) – back to Paz: translated by Rukeyser; perhaps an earlier attempt by another poet to grapple with an other – perhaps those poems of his are not his but hers – maybe she was just monkeying around with him, playfully letting the gods moisten the sap of antonymnity, the dialectics of being one in relation to the other – perhaps she supped enough sap to allow him to breathe through the pores of the new poem, her poem as voice, as song, a forgiving to let the other move past – there is no resultant vector in Paz: he’s a mishmash – the aesthete would call him complicated, Wittgenstein (‘untying the knots of thinking’) would just dub him confused, and Rukeyser? well she would simply have gone about playfully monkeying around with the x’s and not x’s of Paz, an exercise in mirth that hints at the deadly seriousness of moral ambiguity.