Syed Rabia Bukhari presents two of her poems that dig deep into vast human preoccupations such as memory, forgetfulness, loss and grief, with all of these congealing into a trace of the human experience that reflects perseverance in life and in living. What it means to be alive and more importantly what it means to have lived is perhaps best conveyed through the verses in these two poems.

SOULSMITH

Midnight shakes the memory
As a mad man shakes a dead geranium.
Rhapsody on a Windy Night, T.S. Eliot

I have been sitting in the rain for a while
watching seconds turn into minutes,
into hours, into days.
It’s the third day. My soul is water.
This pile of stones
I dug out with brittle bones
gauzed in flesh, forming fingers,
shines clean. No traces of dirt or blood or salt,
no memory of existence.

Cold and deserted like the city inside
the road lies silent under a somber sky,
gray mid-summer evening
and these familiar sounds
of unexpected rains
of flip flops whipping the vacant air
of your name pulsating in the sopping twilight
of gunshots piercing the evening gloom
gloom that settles like an ancient curse and haunts
the cold and deserted city inside.

I think in poetry
as all senses resign and fall apart.
Blood is thicker than water…rain is the thickest.
Blood is in the rain. It rains blood.
I press my ear against the wooden flooring
and count the falling drops,
one...two...eleven…sixty…one hundred and twenty…
one hundred and forty-five…Heavens come undone.
Crimson pellets of rain rebound
and smolder my eyes
I feel in poetry.

Like one can’t crawl back into a womb
or into a beloved’s heart after vandalizing it.
I cannot go back into poetry,
my rhyme has no rhythm left,
its decaying carcass stares in horror,
I only fidget for words to cover the silence
while troubled like a mad woman’s disheveled locks
bleak thoughts go berserk inside my head.
Poetry doesn’t come easy to me
as forgetfulness to you
or memory to the poets.
That’s how homes are wrecked
that’s how you become an exile.
Poetry refuses to take me back.

These dents have been bothering me for a while,
the dents in the soul
they retain water and everything that can
metamorphose into water:
pain, memory, the memory of pain, the pain of memory,
and the amorphous void—spreading like an epidemic,
escalating like an emergency.
Soulsmith, the sky of my memories is overcast.
It rains every night.

 

OF MEMORY AND DESIRE

Often when this lazy moon here
(a fluorescent smear on black skin of night)
rises slowly
from behind this winter blighted tree
and mist of silence
hanging between its solitary branches
percolates into the depths
of one cold empty heart.

Your memory rises from the stillness around
in the shattered city of my being.
I tried to break my heart on purpose, didn’t you see?
The struggle, sweat, the hammered-down track
and the scanty prize
when the glacier refused to crack
nothing broke
but one overstretched hope.
Your memory rises from the stillness inside.

Darkness is a loving mother
calling softly
upon the snoring memories.
Nibbling upon the soft tissue of indifference
they leap out of the memory sack
and hop about like drunken mice.
Reality is too unreal to be accepted,
I want to dream a while
about you. About childhood. About forgetfulness.
This night is overreaching the margins of dawn,
its moist veil, dripping cold on tired eyes.
Darkness is a soothing mother.

What would the world have been like,
were you still a part of it?
I often think
You travelled too fast,
destinations aren’t reached so soon.
Desires couldn’t catch up with you then
nor can memory now,
you—an amputation of my soul.
Incurable. Unspeakable.
What would my world have been like,
were you still a part of it?

I have disowned this rebellious heart
(these arrhythmic beats the most alien sound now)
and owned it again
over and over again
unlike the dead flowers
we used to bury under loose sand, you remember?
Thinking it won’t choke their breath like sticky mud
I placed my heart under a heavy stone
squeezing all life out of it,
but rebellion comes in varieties
I have disowned this insolent heart.

Whirling in the infinite oblivion of your tender eyes
I saw the Autumn of your soul, of our world
that day when dusk dropped
somewhat early
uneasy rays of sun were struggling in the twigs
of that single, lopsided Chinar
sketching a wavering pattern on bare earth
unmindful, waiting for you
I wrote in the same diary
the caged bird sobs. We hear a song.
You were anxious to see me off; I couldn’t see the reluctance in your tone.
I was too hasty to leave; you couldn’t see the reluctance in my pace.
It wasn’t winter
but we were supposed to part,
my universe broke and I saw it
whirling in the infinite oblivion of your troubled eyes.

Winter is an indispensable season,
leaves must fall, desires wilt
and sparrows must drop dead
over decaying leaves, fluttering anxious
in seasonless winds.
Winter. Of memory and desire.
Death must thaw the frosty core of life.
Winter is an indispensable emotion.

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