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Vacating an Apartment

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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, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/.
Source: The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987)
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Vacating an Apartment

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