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The Correspondent

I say, "There's no way back to your country,"

I tell him he must never leave. He cites

the world: his schedule. I set up barricades:

the mountain routes are damp;

there, dead dervishes damascene

the dark. "I must leave now," his voice ablaze.

I take off--it's my last resort--my shadow.


And he walks--there's no electricity--

back into my dark, murmurs Kashmir!, lights

(to a soundtrack of exploding grenades)

a dim kerosene lamp.

"We must give back the hour it sheen.

or this spell will never end...Quick," he says,

"I've just come--with videos--from Sarajevo."


His footage is priceless with sympathy,

close-ups in slow motion, from bombed sites

to the dissolve of mosques in colonnades.

Then, wheelchairs on a ramp,

burning. He fast-forwards: the scene:

the sun: a man in formal wear: he plays

on the sidewalk his unaccompanied cello,


the hour turned, dusk-slowed, to Albinoni,

only the Adagio as funeral rites

before the stars dazzle, polished to blades

above a barbed-wire camp.

The cellist disappears. The screen

fills--first with soldiers, then the dead, their gaze

fractured white with subtitles. Whose echo


inhabits the night? The phone rings. I think he

will leave. I ask: "When will the satellites

transmit my songs, carry Kashmir, aubades

always for dawns to stamp

True! across seas?" The stars careen

down, the lamp dies. He hangs up. A haze

settles over us. He opens the window,


points to convoys in the mountains, army

trucks with dimmed lights. He wants exclusive rights

to this dream, its fused quartz of furtive shades.

He's been told to revamp

his stories, reincarnadine

their gloss. I light a candle. He'll erase

Bosnia, I feel. He will rewind to zero,


film from there a way back to his country,

bypassing graves than in blacks and whites

climb ever up the hills. The wax cascades

down the stand, silver clamp

to fasten this dream, end it unseen.

In the faltering light, he surveys

what's left. He zooms madly into my shadow.


-Agha Shahid Ali

Reader Comments (1)

Every once in a while I will find another Agha Shahid Ali fan. Call me Ishmael Tonight blew me way. Duende, Lorca used to call it, that shiver down the spine when you read a poem. The rhyme of the ghazals are perfect. This one I had not read.

November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMahim

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