an eye from a stalk

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The bereft draft of a 
    drop of wet sky will tell you
    tales from a vivid north
    and it will speak the eastern vale.

When talking with clouds, listen
    to the raven wanting to
    claim attention to some space
    and a little time.

The card of a small wall of
    thistle bridges the world;
    another world opens up in
    an eye, from a stalk.

The throwback to an ancient necessity
is green; the wander of an eye’s
lowering of curvature is its shell
of calm, and the quickening of
the quill is its fire.

Mountain smoke gathers an
hour past the file of
germs that woo the word that
spell that glue that binds the
bell that rings the mountain quick.

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The weather stream jostles
for day in the event that
the cry for river bends
a knot, a vine, a chirp
away from depth.

Silence is the growth of a chirp, and
the tweet will whistle the
hum of the stream that brushes
past my gush of hurt, a century
of whistle.

Some rope withstands the
feel of the heart strand;
where is the kind
truth that settles my binary drums?

The valor of a purple stir is
a call to my ocean of thorns of
a valley that stirs the moan,
that fills the ink of rhythm.

Beyond the ken of power, the
    flow of the morning thrush
    is green is present is
    there willing, combing
    the steady remnants of day.

The reach of gold and
    sand that cusps the
    thread of my warm grasp
    of this broken bit of
    nuance, red with worry.

Wound up in stark volumes
    that gear up strands of
    dearness and tearing the
    filament of an unborn thought
    perpendicular to the blue veil.

(Naran and Ayubia; mid-June 2015)

The barbarian and the snakecharmer

              "Tonight, you grow fire
In your home; the hearth is warmer than
It was day before, and the heat is some
What hotter."

Tell me, o bearer of the bard's timeless
Residues, the starkness of what remains,
Endures. Tell me too, o quills that ink
The shores of pain, of destitute growth
And gain.

               "Tomorrow's morrow is now past."

The temple grounded, the sword sheathed, the
Fill of land is for the maker's glory, and
Fuel for the till.

               "Cull your seamstress vows,
Pulverize the atoms of your being, the order
Of light is now of silent gratitude."

The worms of time look about and confer with
The muse of the forest, the news of night;
The loose ground will shift in preparation.

               "Did I mention the glories and
Speak of the stains?"

No matter now, the glory, the stain, the dim
Flames from the hearth are programmed to keep
Your fellowship warm.

Karachi – Snatches

I. Afternoon
Just afternoon,  just when collages of retrograde commerce
mishmash, coalesce with a train of thought conditioned

by imperial diktat – of the gorasaab says kind –
by identity wars – of the god says kind –

ooh the electric eclecticity
aah the wounds

when dust settles – dust will never settle in Karachi for dust is its abode its essential throwback to primordia
when dust settles – attempting to outflank the sewerage shining brazen baking in the hearth of sun.

II. Winter
There is no need for winter; the crust has been cold
for long and the discontent has chilled song for

long enough.

If you rejoice the odd winter breeze from the hills
up above, recall too the their chilled song gone for

long enough.

III. Dawn
No not the chirpy chirpy, not the
oil for breakfast, not the lingering
stench of last night’s blood. Grain

of morning wakes up to smell the
doodh-patti, the attentive bird
is reluctant to sound out for fear

of falling into the redundant abyss
of chic billboards inviting you plainly
to observe the absence of song.

Noori and Jam Tamachi

(From Sheikh Ayaz’s Urdu translation of Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai’s ‘Shah jo Risalo’)

The story
Noori, a fisher-woman from a poor Sindhi village, catches the eye of the ruler Tamachi on one of his outings. He chooses her as his bride. Soon his harem is jealous and proposes a competition to choose the best dressed bride. Noori, dressed plainly, wins and is declared queen.

The context
Tamachi (1367–1379) was the fourth ruler of the Samma dynasty (1335–1520) in Sindh, Pakistan. Towards the end of the Samma rule, the Swarankar community settled in Sindh which is believed to have led to the beginning of Sufism in Sindh.

The out-of-context
It is Tamachi the king who chooses the queen and not the other way around. Sufic verse will remain a cosmetic fad unless the patriarchal bias that informs Sufism is undone consciously, deliberately.

The story of the moral
Humility suits the powerful. Exhorting subservience is chapter one of Exploitation 101. This is the subtext that has kept the Risalo – like other Sufic texts – acceptable to the feudal mindset of the land.

The amoral of the story
The Risalo is interspersed with bits of verse (named waai) where the woman speaks in her own voice of her very earthly longing for her lover. This is Subversion 101 and the subtext which speaks directly to the humanity of the village folk keeping the embers of Ishq alive in spite of the kowtowing of tradition that constitutes the bulk of the text.

The tangent
Voice of un-reason is sound – and fury perhaps, but that comes later. Right now it is a whisper. The listless whisper which darkens the shallow attempts at homogenization. The glisten, the sheen, the disposable wrapping that underlies stone and dirt and water. Trying to contain the overflowing ooze. This in not a warp but a singe. A voluminous dribble in a paper cup wanting to be full.

The Tao
Know the high, stick to the low.

Faiz I – reinterpreted/re(de)constructed

(Mujh se pehli si muhabbat meray mehboob na maang)

To expect me to keep pining for you. To be blind
to the sludge that ornamented tradition has left behind.

Yes, I equated your fate with mine. And it felt nice
up to a point. Up to a point.

Your breath still commands mine. But to
breathe in this and this alone. Sorry.

There are other grievances, other indulgences besides you:
machinations that bleed, history that sullies flesh with dirt.

1. Original Urdu
2. A young Noor Jehan sings it

Senseless horror again; too close to home

Yesterday evening, the two explosions at the shrine of Abdullah Shah in Karachi were extremely close to home; there is a cricket stadium and a street which separates our apartment building from the shrine; after the first explosion, the three of us went to the balcony out of curiosity; we saw smoke first and in a few seconds we saw the second explosion: a very loud one; the experience left us numb; soon there were police and ambulance sirens; the shrine was closed down and was absolutely quiet at night: I doubt the shrine has ever been this quiet; this morning our maid told me that two of her neighbour’s kids had been killed: they had gone there to get food (‘langar’) which is distributed.