Snowmen

By Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001
My ancestor, a man
of Himalayan snow,
came to Kashmir from Samarkand,
carrying a bag
of whale bones:
heirlooms from sea funerals.
His skeleton
carved from glaciers, his breath
arctic,
he froze women in his embrace.
His wife thawed into stony water,
her old age a clear
evaporation.

This heirloom,
his skeleton under my skin, passed
from son to grandson,
generations of snowmen on my back.
They tap every year on my window,
their voices hushed to ice.

No, they won’t let me out of winter,
and I’ve promised myself,
even if I’m the last snowman,
that I’ll ride into spring
on their melting shoulders.

Agha Shahid Ali, “The Snowmen” from The Half-Inch Himalayas © 1987 by Agha Shahid Ali and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Half-Inch Himalayas (Wesleyan University Press, 1987)

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Poet Agha Shahid Ali 1949–2001

Subjects Relationships, Nature, Family & Ancestors, Winter

 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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SUBJECT Relationships, Nature, Family & Ancestors, Winter

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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