A Promise

Muhammad Tahir

He asks me: “Where
is the poem you promised
to write long ago?”

I am at a loss what
to tell him: that I lost it
somewhere along the way,

or, that it never came to me
the way I wanted it to come.
Or, shall I say, it never stayed

with me long enough to grow
and flow into my dreamy senses,
the cocoon of my soul?

Or, shall I tell him it died long ago
in the whirlpool of my heart,
was consumed by the gaze

of the winter moon.
Or, that it trembled, fainted
until I lost words to the hollow

winter nights when young lifeless
bodies sobbed with the Jhelum?
But wait!

Sometimes it sprung inside me
like a memory

of my beloved’s treachery
wrangling through
tumultuous summer nights.

I assure you, my friend, I kept
writing it all these years on the stout
walls of our city streets,

in the wails of our young men
in their tenacious heartbeats
in the fury of flying stones

in the fierce sweep of falcons
in the enraged eyes of summer moons
in the sky of my solitude

in the dome of our sky
in its cold, demurring stars
in yamberzals and lilacs,

in simmering spring songs
in the stillness of the morning
in the orange of the falling day

in the spring of abandoned smiles
in all the space between you and I.
And still you ask: “Where
is the poem you promised?”
I assure you, my friend,
it grows on the slate of my memory,

word by word it grows everyday
moist as Mughli’s eyes
absorb the silence of her black shawl.

It grows cold as the earth
of unmarked graves, hangs
as a clock of a broken time

I kept weaving it
moment by moment,
on petals of a narcissus

on the path that leads
to the shrine of our dream
of a new dawn

So, my friend, I kept it with me
as much as it kept me.
Here, I pass it on to you

in the very act of writing it,
the poem we both are writing
every day, every night,

a poem of our people
a poem by our people
a poem for our people

Muhammad Tahir. who is pursuing Masters in International Relations at International University of Japan, can be reached at [email protected]

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