Four Poetry by Tanveer Anjum

Madam Minister’s Power-Point File

By Tanveer Anjum, translated from the Urdu by Tanveer Anjum

For the power point presentation of the Madam Minister
Before the UNO
Which pictures should be selected?

All street urchins look alike
Choose whichever ones you like

The veiled faces of women look alike
Choose whichever ones you like

The faces of clerics hidden behind beards look alike
Choose whichever ones you like

Mutilated bodies after bomb blasts look alike
Choose whichever ones you like

For the madam minister’s power point presentation
What design should be selected?
What colors should be used?

The options are countless
Call an expert

An Ant on a Bedspread

By Tanveer Anjum, translated from the Urdu by Afzal Ahmed Syed

When it is not the time of year for ants to be seen
How come an ant, out of the blue,
Appears on the bedspread
In the vast terrain of the double bed
Wandering as if lost
Morose with solitude
Manifestly bewildered
An ant by herself
Unaware of her transgression
Of interrupting my reading
This helpless creature
Does not comprehend
To escape what agony
I had picked up the book

Moving speedily
In one direction head on
She abruptly turns to another
And then to another
This is no longer a secret
That she has no clue of her destination
Or of her direction

My finger chases her
Like a god
And whenever it feels like
To be amused by
Her added panic
It can stand before her like a rock
And can compel her to change her direction
And run even more speedily

I, the sadist
On some slip of her
Or on being tired of the game with her
Would crush her under my finger
And at midnight
When sleep would decline to favor me
This finger would crawl forward
To a face
And halt halfway
And the midnight silence would resonate
How come an ant
Appears on the bedspread

Her Price Was Etched over and over Again

By Tanveer Anjum, translated from the Urdu by Afzal Ahmed Syed

Said she in a feeble voice
Etch my price on my arm
Or on my back
Or on my chest
But they paid no heed to her feeble voice
And etched her price on her forehead
And declined to bargain

They made a mistake
Apropos her conduct
Her price was reduced over and over again
And with no room left on her forehead
It was etched
First on her arms
Then on her back
Then on her chest

You Have My Permission

By Tanveer Anjum, translated from the Urdu by Tanveer Anjum

Why do you despise so much
These out-of-fashion
Artificial flowers
In our homes
With no gardens
And no flowerbeds
They fill our rooms
With color

We share,
With strangers
A building
With more than a hundred dwellings

The artificial flowers spare us the hardship
Of maintaining a garden
Or buying and replacing real ones,
That will wilt away in less than a day

You have my permission
To lay artificial flowers
On my grave

Tanveer Anjum holds a masters in English literature and has a doctorate in applied linguistics. She has been writing poetry for several decades. Her collections of poetry are Undekhi Lehren (1982), Safar aur Qaid mein Nazmein (1992), Toofani Barishon mein Raqsaan Sitaare (1997) and Sar-o-Barg-e-Aarzoo (2002). She is a recipient of the Presidential Award, Izaz-i-Fazeelat (2000).

Afzal Ahmed Syed is a contemporary Urdu poet and translator, known for his mastery of both classical and modern Urdu poetic expression. He is the author of the modern nazm collections (An Arrogated Past, 1984), (Death Sentence in Two Languages, 1990), and (Rococo and Other Worlds, 2000). Another collection of classical ghazals is titled (The Dark Pavilion, 1988). Syed has translated a wide and important body of works by contemporary poets, playwrights and novelists. He was the one of the first Urdu translators of Gabriel García Márquez and Jean Genet. His work has been widely published in leading Urdu literary periodicals such as Shabkhoon, Aaj, and Dunyazad. He currently teaches at Habib University.