Friday poem: Not All, Only A Few Return

15 01 2010

Yes, another ghazal.

I had great difficulty finding a poem for this Friday. I pulled out Kay Ryan, WS Merwin, Robert Pinsky, John Ashbery—but, again, returned to Ali.

Haiti on my mind, I guess, although wrongly so: I was thinking of water, not earth; flood, not quake.

Still, the notion that these sorrows will repeat pulled me to the ghazal and its repetitions. Again, however, it is not strictly the same: each moment demands its own attention.

And so it is this time, with this people.

*Note:  Mirza Ghalib was a 19th-century Sufi, and ghazal poet; his poems remain popular among Urdu readers today.

Not All, Only A Few Return
(after Ghalib)

Just a few return from dust, disguised as roses.
What hopes the earth forever covers, what faces?

I too could recall moonlit roofs, those nights of wine—
But Time has shelved them now in Memory’s dimmed places.

She has left forever, let blood flow from my eyes
til my eyes are lamps lit for love’s darkest places.

All of his—Sleep, Peace, Night—when on his arm your hair
shines to make him the god whom nothing effaces.

With wine, the palm’s lines, believe me, rush to Life’s stream—
Look, here’s my hand, and here the red glass it raises.

See me! Beaten by sorrow, man is numbed to pain.
Grief has become the pain only pain erases.

World, should Ghalib keep weeping you will see a flood
drown your terraced cities, your marble palaces.