Ghazal

By Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001

Feel the patient’s heart
Pounding—oh please, this once—
—JAMES MERRILL

I’ll do what I must if I’m bold in real time.   
A refugee, I’ll be paroled in real time.

Cool evidence clawed off like shirts of hell-fire?   
A former existence untold in real time ...

The one you would choose: Were you led then by him?   
What longing, O Yaar, is controlled in real time?

Each syllable sucked under waves of our earth—
The funeral love comes to hold in real time!

They left him alive so that he could be lonely—
The god of small things is not consoled in real time.

Please afterwards empty my pockets of keys—
It’s hell in the city of gold in real time.

God’s angels again are—for Satan!—forlorn.   
Salvation was bought but sin sold in real time.

And who is the terrorist, who the victim?
We’ll know if the country is polled in real time.

“Behind a door marked DANGER” are being unwound
the prayers my friend had enscrolled in real time.

The throat of the rearview and sliding down it   
the Street of Farewell’s now unrolled in real time.

I heard the incessant dissolving of silk—
I felt my heart growing so old in real time.

Her heart must be ash where her body lies burned.   
What hope lets your hands rake the cold in real time?

Now Friend, the Belovèd has stolen your words—
Read slowly: The plot will unfold in real time.

(for Daniel Hall)

NOTES: Yaar: Hindi word for friend.

Agha Shahid Ali, “Ghazal” from Rooms Are Never Finished. Copyright © 2002 by Agha Shahid Ali. Reprinted with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Rooms Are Never Finished (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)

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Poet Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001

Subjects Religion, Time & Brevity, Death, Living

Poetic Terms Ghazal

 Agha Shahid Ali

Biography

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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Time & Brevity, Death, Living

Poetic Terms Ghazal

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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