Qasida of the water pipe’s gurgle on a starry night
Midnight alley, the poet watches jinn silhouetted
in pursuit of jinn on slim ledges of balconies—
secrets leaking like watered-down ink—
In the walled city, a bone-biting winter night
never comes without the witness of coal,
brass pots and the nightly haleem cooked
by the same Mughal family for generations
The poet is wearing a coat lined with leopard skin
In his courtyard, a freshened water pipe, a divan,
promises made on a walk along a German river.
Qasida of time stretched like leather on a drum
Poet at home with the cosmic rolling pin
that shapes lunar light into bread, at home
with galaxies aligning to pave a path from afterlife
to Lahore— for his poet-fathers Rumi and Goethe.
Iqbal, hand resting on jaw bone, dreams of paradise
as an essence contoured by poetry—
where Goethe reads Faust to Rumi
and Rumi proclaims him brother,
knower of the Great Mystery— This is prime
property, this neighborhood of the mystics—
Qasida of Exile
Young Rumi on horseback
recalls the hoopoe’s cinnamon crest in the story
of Suleiman, Bilal the noble muezzin’s tearful glance
at the date palm by which the beloved no longer stood.
Nishapur miles away, Rome farther yet, the boy will raise
both his arms to fight the flurry of thoughts of home
in the stranglehold of Mongol smoke, charred cypress
elms, vultures. He will learn to rip away the blinding curtain
of worry from his eyes and see the festive cactus, cherry,
and wild walnut, hear in the ringdove a universe of laughter
Qasida of Second Chances
A fugitive flower of a poodle at the door, he Is really
the devil peddling a crystal mind with a blood pact
Transcendence, just around the corner, hidden
in a box tree hedge not far from Faust’s door.
It is after the devil has driven a dagger through a newborn
that your quivering book will be laid to rest, Goethe.
Book two opens in a field awakened by agate light. Poet,
you fought and won half the bet— Act V will have
angels declaring: “He who strives on and lives to strive
Can earn redemption still.”
Qasida of Poets Meeting by Roshnaai Gate
Roshnaai, meaning both light and ink, most radiant
of Lahore’s thirteen gates. If you could author a balcony
for a meeting with Rumi and Goethe, it would be here—
travel by boat, travel by the timeless call of the nai
which tunnels desire for the one, the pulse
of circumambulation, melody of windows wide open
from Balkh and Weimar to the rings of Saturn. A partridge
alights on your shoulder, Iqbal. The ice skirting your lighthouse
of philosophy is melting under the feet of your poets.
You are walking by your own ancient river, nai in hand.