Guest poem sent in by amulya gopalakrishnan
(Poem #1129) Farewell
At a certain point I lost track of you. They make a desolation and call it peace. when you left even the stones were buried: the defenceless would have no weapons. When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks, who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes? O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished, who weighs the hairs on the jeweller's balance? They make a desolation and call it peace. Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise? My memory is again in the way of your history. Army convoys all night like desert caravans: In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved- all winter- its crushed fennel. We can't ask them: Are you done with the world? In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other's reflections. Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are found like this centuries later in this country I have stitched to your shadow? In this country we step out with doors in our arms Children run out with windows in their arms. You drag it behind you in lit corridors. if the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything. At a certain point I lost track of you. You needed me. You needed to perfect me. In your absence you polished me into the Enemy. Your history gets in the way of my memory. I am everything you lost. You can't forgive me. I am everything you lost. Your perfect Enemy. Your memory gets in the way of my memory: I am being rowed through Paradise in a river of Hell: Exquisite ghost, it is night. The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves. It is still night. The paddle is a lotus. I am rowed- as it withers-toward the breeze which is soft as if it had pity on me. If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn't have happened in the world? I'm everything you lost. You won't forgive me. My memory keeps getting in the way of your history. There is nothing to forgive.You can't forgive me. I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself. There is everything to forgive. You can't forgive me. If only somehow you could have been mine, what would not have been possible in the world?
The first time I heard of Agha Shahid Ali was at a reading about 9/11, where Amitav Ghosh read this poem from " A Country Without A Post Office'. "His name means 'witness' and that is what he has been," said Ghosh. But we do not witness things as they are. We witness them as we are. Agha Shahid Ali's abiding themes were Kashmir, exile, loneliness, love- and longing, always longing. The mythos of Kashmir, and the opulence of Urdu poetry shaped much of his writing. This poem, Farewell, is a shattering evocation of conflict. Of belief pitted against belief, of memories and histories intertwined and warring. A pity beyond all telling in the lines, 'They make a desolation and call it peace'. There is no attempt to resolve the implacable anger that fuels such conflict- beyond a sense of bitter, bitter mourning. ' We cannot ask them yet, are you done with the world?' And yet, what seeps through in this poem and all the others in 'The Country Without a Post Office' is the unbearable wistfulness, the unsaid plea of its final lines, 'If only you could have been mine- what could not have been possible in the world?' amulya