When you permitted my hands to turn to stone,
as must happen to a translator’s hands,
I thought of you writing Zindan-Nama
on prison walls, on cigarette packages,
on torn envelopes. Your lines were measured
so carefully to become in our veins
the blood of prisoners. In the free verse
of another language I imprisoned
each line–but touched my own exile.
This hush, while your ghazals lay in my palms,
was accurate, as is this hush that falls
at news of your death over Pakistan
and India and over all of us no
longer there to whom you spoke in Urdu.
Twenty days before your death you finally
wrote, this time from Lahore, that after the sack
of Beirut you had no address…I
had gone from poem to poem, and found
you once, terribly alone, speaking
to yourself: “Bolt your doors, Sad heart! Put out
the candles, break all cups of wine. No one,
now no one will ever return.” But you
still waited, Faiz, for that God, that Woman.
that Friend, that Revolution, to come
at last. And because you waited,
I listen as you pass with some song,
a memory of musk, the rebel face of hope.
–Agha Shahid Ali, The veiled suite.