We cross the Red Sea every day — Two Poems by Miran Gulzar
February 8, 2022
Miran Gulzar presents two poems that counterpose erasure, grief and loss with faith, memory and remembrance. In the first poem, snow offers a momentary lapse that shrouds grief and reconciles it with loss, while finally placing a funerary drape over the world of "the unburied." “Religious allusions” in the second poem sustain its verses and hold them steadfast before the impositions of power that selectively force shut the gates of certain places meant for prayer and devotion.

The Unburied

The whirling snow
in Kashmir,
descends at grief’s speed[1]
like a shroud.

It covers
the fall of
an autumnal massacre.

It washes the bruises
of the withered ones,
the rosy hues
of the unseen ones.

It numbs our
mourning memory,
And relieves us
of our only duty.

We watch silently
as it buries—
the unburied.

[1] Ghazal ‘Of Light,’ Chapter. Call Me Ishmael Tonight. Page 363, The Veiled Suite, Agha Shahid Ali. First edition. Copyright © 2009 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Moses in Kashmir

At Koh-i-Maran[1]
When I go off alone,
as if listening for
God[2]

Does it draw curtains
and put
the Pharaoh’s disbelief
to shame?

Will my faith
under his spell
split the locked gates?

I saw Moses crying,
raising his hands to the skies.
And I asked myself
When last did I cry?[3]

Women tie themselves to windows
like prayer knots—
to get a final glimpse
of their beloved’s cavalry.

We cross the Red Sea every day,
and they want to
erase our memory,
dissolve every language.

And set fire
to every bridge.

But with the blessings
of Nizamuddin Auliya,[4]

I wish to meet
You again
in Khanqah-e-Moula.[5]

—To answer your
call to prayer,
I flood the Jhelum
with the tears of dhikr.[6]

And it rows me
like calligraphy
sailing on a Papier-mâché surface.

[1] Hari Parbat also called Koh-i-Maran ([koːhi maːraːn]), is a hill overlooking Srinagar, the largest city and the capital of the Jammu and Kashmir state

[2] Ghazal ‘Of Light,’ Chapter. Call Me Ishmael Tonight. Page 363, The Veiled Suite, Agha Shahid Ali. First edition. Copyright © 2009 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

[3] Poem ‘When last did I cry’. Shahid.

[4] Hazrat Nizamuddin, or Mahbub-e-Ilahi was an Indian Muslim scholar, Sufi saint of the Chishti Order, and is one of the most famous Sufis from the Indian Subcontinent.

[5] Khanqah-e-Moula, also known as Shah-e-Hamadan Masjid is the first mosque in the Jammu and Kashmir, located in the Old city of Srinagar

[6] Dhikr is a form of Islamic meditation in which phrases or prayers are repeatedly chanted in order to remember God. It plays a central role in Sufi Islam, and each Sufi order has usually adopted a specific dhikr, typically accompanied by specific posture, breathing, and movement.

Share This!

About the Contributor

<a href="https://www.inversejournal.com/author/miran-gulzar/" target="_self">Miran Gulzar</a>

Miran Gulzar

Miran Gulzar has a Honours Degree in English Literature from University of Delhi and has completed his Master’s in English Language and Literature from the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST). His work has appeared in Wande Magazine, Café Dissensus, Rising Kashmir, Shepherds of Himalayas and more.