3

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.

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