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