You leave the wind sick in the apples
You leave the wind sick in the apples
and pitch the tent of our pasts
on the banks of our dried river. You
wear the river hastily as an enemy
would gun down our air.
You leave the wind sick in the apples
and draw out the flutes of the sparrows
in our wilted dreams. You play the flutes
like the perfume of a lover’s kiss when
his blood paints a paisley on our air.
You leave the wind sick in the almonds
and tame our first sky. You crack it open
like a nutcracker and watch our fates
spurt out. You nail roses of our trysts
to the fences of your fires. We only seek
old shoes stitched from our air.
You leave the wind sick in the cherries
and open doors in our rocks. You watch
our clouds drift down, red from our
doors. We watch the curtains of the olive
rain wipe out our twice written name
from the stories rumoured in our air.
To a lost lover in Kashmir
Every window owns a voice
Though not one speaks to me.
I am lost in such a crowd
Where my only company is me.
Faiz, you summed it right:
Who dares the courage to request now? Who bears the patience to endure now?
I can hardly shake off the fear off me, but how does one persuade the heart to write off its obstinacy? Neither any plea for meeting admitted, nor any grievance redressed. Tyrant, how merciless is your regime: All the rights of the broken heart have been suspended.
Freshly metalled roads lead to wary mountains and wintered gardens in the upturned valley - ashen white and stale green, in jaded wallpapers. Special SRTC buses meet to auction generous routes to relish the
barricaded world. There are great attractions indeed, but what use are they when elegy is prohibited to me? The rains of my misfortune didn’t choose a stranger’s roof.
Those stars, we stole from the impossible seas of blood in the dug mountains and strung into three constellations (if our two ran out, we kept one for a rainy day) were gunned down too
right in the heart of my sky. Perhaps some prophet will glide over now and resurrect them from saffron graves. Perhaps, I could then
empty the sea of long death between us, and nail to it my leaking palms with the syllables of your memory. From me, ailing from you, the furry hands of death will, perhaps, exorcise the mortgaged plagues of memory. My sutured memory leans back on the benches of superiority stroking your blood matted hair with rock-hard guns.
The awaara was used to conversing with the black roses blooming in the undug bazaars. Will he too need to be diagnosed, medicated and counselled for generic anxiety? Will you steal the scars of your memory from him too, the scars which are full moons now?
Someone wake you up, tear you up, grieve over you, when I come back home late midnight
someone sigh over you and console in hushed whispers: indeed,
you have suffered greatly till now, you have walked alone
and burnt in our fires alone. Come, walk beside me
come, let us walk a new journey, come walk, make
me your witness and walk.
How long more dear heart, how much more
life like this?
Saif, we too never wonder
at the dead. Death
must’ve been the only
When I Dream
Some mornings, I wake up from a dream, where
I frantically flee from a neat barricade
laid by men in olive
but in vain. The bullets fired
shatter the glass maps of my sleep into bitter shrapnel in my chest.
Those mornings, I resolve to follow Rafi who declares:
Aaj purani raahon say koi mujhe awaaz na de
Nobody call out to me,
today, from the bolted lanes of bygone days. Don’t dole out
songs soaked in the scent of elegy or console me
with the simmering santoor of misery.
I, too, will disown my poems
and exile them in curtained palanquins of clouds
Declare a new revolution, scrub off from the city
walls the scriptures of our old sentences.
Neither those sweet assassins nor our cymbaled prayers. Rub off from my hands
all pretence that the fog awaits your command to reveal
of jade rain,
tell-tale tales of fathers, sons and their cargo,
and sprinkle sky and earth with songs of our regret.
All the idols our poems prayed to
stand long smashed. No manacles of blind rituals bind us now
to the tense waters, cordoned off long ago
to tourists to give the summer palace on the hill
a new sheen, and so ended our spell.
Notes for a Stranger
Stranger, shut the door behind you
We are afraid of the blunt frost.
Greet the pear tree that grows
in our broken eyes with a wrecked pledge.
We are afraid of promises kept
Stranger, greet us in the middle of sun dried
rain, and doze with us in the mustard
of songs sown by the blind singer.
Meet us midway in the night as long
as sudden death.
We are afraid of your breath...
Stranger, disown our photograph
repatriated to the headline. Run with
the handkerchief of our shadows
and flutter it in the spring breeze.
We are afraid of winter…
Stranger, put on a laughing lilac,
Light the chandelier of our wind
and weave for us the lost sky
of our old years. Slaughter
the pigeons of our stars and
spread the feast on stolen clay.
We are afraid of hunger…
Stranger, ask the butterfly
of the snow over the masjid dome
and the hunter’s tent in ripe summer
of apple orchards. Pour our honey
over these empty bruises in the grass.
We are afraid of the siege….
We walk in my broken dreams
We found the country of language
How great was the desolation before!
We are forgotten as if we never existed. We are an echo of a destitute translation. We are your broken song, your river dead from slaked thirst, the last sigh of an IED, which bleeds icicles dangling from your blasted roof. We are a desert rose blinded by untimely spring snow, miscarried almond blossom drugged on psychiatric beds, rabab song safety-acted in Central Prison, Srinagar.
In my dreams, I smuggle your shadow into the barricaded lanes to your house - twice sold to the long dead, and the pigeon of my childhood flits from one marble ledge to another. There is no earth left for the pigeon to rest, and no gunned sky open for the pigeon to fly now. The pigeon stole our songs in its grained beak, and spilled them over the glass mountains of our silence.
Sun trips over bright moons in the roads of our longing, and falls into the pomegranate trees which grow in the graveyard where my father lies buried. I turn its leaves over to read the lines of our exile, and ask whether we will return anew? We know not yet the art of hiding our despair, maddened by the secret to craft water from the santoor of your funerals. Under the sky of your funerals, snow-men run, rifles between their eyes, limping in boots of fury, to fight at the gates of our city.
I know my old house right from the grove of pomegranate trees, under the damp smell of a 90’s crackdown. The first of the broken windows on the back leans into the shrine of Mahmoud – the cook saint. He leans on the shahtoos wings of red butterflies in the mild spring sun, and hums my grandfather’s salted song: Be I sacrificed to your ‘Begum’ name, accept mubaraks, my yaar on this new name! Red, as our cotton clouds that pour on the doors of coffined jasmine, which scents nightmares in my afternoon sleep. I know these doors. They bury a torn greeting under the yaari kul, which rushes between the shadow of raw sky and the concrete aangun outside my old room.
I walk to my old house in shoes of air, and dream the end of my song. No night can be long enough for us to sing the whole song. We are locked up between the two strings of your rabab, accused of what was never ours, pale blood of our mirages, which colours the ink of our destiny. Awake, Song, our destiny from the bed of our procrastinations, and rush into the house of our ancestors. Bind the spears of their ghosts, and drive them into the ripe hearts of our faded future.
I have dreamt of what awaits us in the afternoon. We will pluck the prophets from the paisley of your stolen regrets, wrap them in the scent of our summer sleep, and offer them to the guards in exchange of opening the city doors. We will watch the pigeon flit from my dream to your dream, to the blue chasm between the two ledges, and slumber in the paddy fields, gazing at the glazed sky of our time. There is no earth left for the pigeon to rest, and no gunned sky open for the pigeon to fly now. How many prophets more do we need? When will our song end?
Huzaifa Pandit is the author of ‘Green is the Colour of Memory’ which won the first edition of Rhythm Divine Poets Chapbook Contest 2017. Born and raised in Kashmir, his poems alternate between despair, defiance, resistance and compliance as they seek to make sense of a world where his identity is outlawed. His inspirations in poetry can be guessed from the topic of his PhD: “Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Agha Shahid Ali and Mahmoud Darwish – Poetics of Resistance” pursued at University of Kashmir. His poems, translations, interviews, essays and papers have been published in various journals like Indian Literature, PaperCuts, Life and Legends, Jaggery Lit, JLA India, Punch and Noble/Gas Quaterly.