Two Poems

    By Semeen Ali

    1. Hunting for a Self

    If it wasn’t enough
    The dogs decided to hold an opera
    Howling away at the dead of the night
    They brought the wind as an audience with them
    The lifeless forms of the moths
    Fluttered as if to write
    A new story – where they merged with the light

    The tent flapped
    What was the noise that came from beyond?
    Someone had called out her name
    Such a familiar voice
    Such a familiar name…

    Scores of tents
    East to west
    North to south
    Logs of woods carried on shoulders
    New arrivals
    New tents
    New ten-ants

    Time had set out on a journey
    There were no followers this time
    Those who had once followed
    sat on the grains of time hollow-eyed
    Trying to search for their versions

    Shall I set foot on that ground that ceases to be mine?

    Stories that ran through empty rooms
    Picking up readers as they vaporised

    Who will look for me?

    These stories that held me together
    Flesh and bone have now reduced me to ashes
    I live in those ashes
    Searching for a familiar voice

    That familiar name…

    Hunting for a Self – looks at the idea of migration and how one’s identity is tied up to the place one comes from. How that gets displaced/misplaced as one tries to adjust in a new environment.

    2. To the Promised Land

    Sit on my shoulders
    Do not look down
    The mud that now dirties my shalwar
    It used to be mine
    I lived here
    I grew up here
    I belonged here
    The banyan tree that sought me out for stories
    Has fallen asleep
    has closed its eyes, maybe

    Sit on my shoulders
    Do not look down
    We pass by the trenches
    The bodies that hugged us
    Now cold- are about to be buried or burnt
    Some ignored
    How many to be sent to heaven
    The countless bodies
    All known and yet unknown
    A mother is casting her eyes on her child
    For one last time
    Searing the memory in her heart.

    My shawl is slipping from my shoulders
    Do not tell me when it falls
    It belongs here
    Do not look down

    Close your eyes
    If possible close your ears
    Close your self
    From everything around you
    The cries that you hear
    The smoke that you smell
    The cartwheels that trudge along the familiar trees
    The trains that everyone is scrambling towards
    Are no proof of the heartache that resides in each of us
    A common pathosis we all suffer from.

    Let me walk as long as I can
    I will carry you away from all of this
    To the Promised Land

    The walk continues
    The geography changes
    The heartache remains
    Follows them
    The father sees, hears
    The daughter unseen and unheard
    Hidden beneath a shawl
    Nothing has changed
    The promise was a lie.
    **

    To The Promised Land– is a poem that imagines the plight/condition of the people who uprooted themselves from India in the hope to create a new world in the Promised Land ( Pakistan) and how that dream shattered as the Muslims who came to Pakistan were termed as Muhajirs and continued to fight for a space/ their rights in the new land.

    Semeen Ali is the author of four books of poetry and has edited a few poetry anthologies with national and international publishers. She reviews books for leading Indian journals as well as is the Fiction and Poetry editor at Muse India.

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