Seven Poems by Parveen Shakir

A MESSAGE

It’s the same weather. The rain’s laughter rings in the trees, echoes. Their green branches wear golden flowers and smile thinking of someone. The breeze is a scarf, again the light-pink. The path to the garden that knows us is looking for us. The moment of moon-rise is waiting for us.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi
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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

PINK FLOWERS
Pink flowers blossomed in the season I met you.
With your attentions they are opening again,
though these wounds had healed already.
How long could the columns support these houses shaken to their foundations? That old strangeness came back, as if our meetings had been done.
The body was still hotfoot with its infatuations,
the feet bruised on the way.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi
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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

VANITY / Vanity Thy Name Is…
He is so simple.
His world is so different from mine.
So separate are his dreams and his preferences.
He says very little.
He writes
this morning I saw some lovely flowers
in the lawn and thought of you.
I know I am at that dishevelled stage of life
when my face is not much like any flower.
But I wish
—whatever he says—
I could believe it a while.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi
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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

HOT LINE / Hot Line

How he used to complain to me!
So many people come between us we cannot talk.
In the season’s first rain, first snow,
full-moon nights, evening’s mild fragrance,
morning’s blue cool, how helpless!
How the heart aches!
Today between him and me there is no third.
There can be contact with a slight movement of the hand.
But how many seasons have passed since hearing that voice.
It is not hard for me to call upon him,
but the truth is the voices and the accents do not have the same tones.
The tune is the same but the hearts are not close enough.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi

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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

WHERE AM I?

Where am I in your life? In the morning breeze or the evening star, hesitant drizzle or sharp rain, silver moonlight or hot noon, deep thoughts or casual tunes? Where am I in your life? Down from work, a weekend’s interval on a beach, or an unintended silken release between your fingers from serial smoke? Or a readily replenished, freshened moment without wine, or a moment’s leave, anonymous, between the breaking of one dream of love and another’s beginning? Where am I in your life?
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi
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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

STEEL MILLS WORKER

Black ghost born of sperm of coal at hellish temperatures.
His work now to keep shovelling coal into the burning furnace.
For this he gets extra wages and special diet,
and no work beyond the four hours at a time.
Perhaps he does not know that he has signed a suicide pact in full knowledge.
He is the fuel for this furnace.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi

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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | |

WE ARE ALL DR FAUSTUS
In a way we are all Dr Faustus.
One from his craze and another helpless from blackmail barters away his soul. One mortgages his eyes to trade in dreams and another offers his mind as collateral. All that one may need sense is the currency of the day. So a survey of life’s Wall Street says that among those with the buying power these days self-respect is very popular.
Parveen Shakir Translated from the Urdu by Alamgir Hashmi

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From Inkar (Refusal) by Parveen Shakir (Islamabad: Murad Publications, 1990). © Urdu text by Parveen Shakir © English translation by Alamgir Hashmi | | | ____________________________

PARVEEN SHAKIR (1952–1994), author of Khushboo, Sad-Barg, Khud-Kalami, and Mah-e-Tamam, is one of the most popular poets in Pakistan. All her verse is written in Urdu and, along with other women poets of her generation, she was responsible for developing a new expression for women’s poetry in Pakistan.

Translator: ALAMGIR HASHMI has been writing poetry for forty years and is author of several books of literary criticism and theory as well. His translations have also been published widely. Of his eleven volumes of English poetry, the latest two are A Choice of Hashmi’s Verse (OUP, 1997) and The Ramazan Libation (Arc, 2003). He has been Professor of English and Comparative Literature in Asian, European, and American universities.
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