Vacating an Apartment

By Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001
Efficient as Fate,
each eye a storm trooper,

the cleaners wipe my smile
with Comet fingers   
and tear the plaster   
off my suicide note.

They learn everything
from the walls’ eloquent tongues.

Now, quick as genocide,
they powder my ghost for a cinnamon jar.

They burn my posters
(India and Heaven in flames),

whitewash my voicestains,

make everything new,   
clean as Death.

When the landlord brings new tenants,   
even Memory is a stranger.

The woman, her womb solid with the future,   
instructs her husband’s eyes   
to clutch insurance policies.

They ignore my love affair with the furniture,   
the corner table that memorized   
my crossed-out lines.

Oh, she’s beautiful,
a hard-nippled Madonna.

The landlord gives them my autopsy;   
they sign the lease.

The room is beating with bottled infants,   
and I’ve stopped beating.

I’m moving out holding tombstones in my hands.

Agha Shahid Ali, “Vacating an Apartment” from The Half-Inch Himalayas. Copyright © 1987 by Agha Shahid Ali. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987)

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Poet Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001

Subjects Time & Brevity, Home Life, Travels & Journeys, Living, Relationships, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Agha Shahid Ali


Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi, India in 1949. He grew up in Kashmir, the son of a distinguished and highly educated family in Srinagar. He attended the University of Kashmir, the University of Delhi and, upon arriving in the United States in 1975, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Arizona. Though a Kashmiri Muslim, Ali is best known in the U.S. and identified himself as an American poet writing in . . .

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SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Home Life, Travels & Journeys, Living, Relationships, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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