Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. Consisting of syntactically and grammatically complete couplets, the form also has an intricate rhyme scheme. Each couplet ends on the same word or phrase (the radif), and is preceded by the couplet’s rhyming word (the qafia, which appears twice in the first couplet). The last couplet includes a proper name, often of the poet’s. In the Persian tradition, each couplet was of the same meter and length, and the subject matter included both erotic longing and religious belief or mysticism.
Sea of Silence: what loneliness is upon me!
Drowning deep, deep: what emptiness is upon me!
Darkness, night after night, my desperate eyes sieve.
To sift the stars?!- what craziness is upon me?
Pain-red, raw, rancid- cauterizes my senses;
Benumbed, I fall: what drowsiness is upon me!
Caravan of Exiles will sing an old song tonight
Just this once but what happiness is upon me!
Not that it ever has been easy to love you,
But woe to me, what weariness is upon me!
It is not that the dreams do not deceive any more
It is just that I no longer believe anymore.
Shores of longing, waves of time: the wreckage afloat!
What can I and what I can’t retrieve anymore!
Tether of history or the leash of memory? Who can tell?
Why cannot the wombs of our graves conceive any more!
The buds of our blood are serenaded as tulips once again;
Has the Tyranny won? Why don’t we grieve anymore?
‘The world is full of paper. Write…’ But what? And how?
What letters from you do not we receive any more?!
A customer from History asks for Cashmere
“Begone!” thumbless men cry, “We do not weave anymore.”
These Ghazals were published in the February 2020 print issue of The Mountain Ink.
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Shabir Ahmad Mir is a poet and writer based in Kashmir. He is the author of the novel The Plague Upon Us, published by Hachette India.