Rizwan Akhtar

Ghazal: hairs falling on shoulders

And I untightened next the tress (Robert Browning)

The day you appeared with a smile and hairs falling on shoulders
Ghazals escaped everything entangled in hairs falling on shoulders

this time even eyes were wide open engulfing me from such distance
Who told you to brave such a design letting hairs falling on shoulders?

On a remote shrine a dust-cloaked saint stamps footprints on soil
Wrenched by beating drums, beads with hairs falling on shoulders

In English winter blondes let wind do their job on heads dancing
No Urdu poet captures the bouncy trails of hairs falling on shoulders

Mir and Ghalib wind radeefs around forelocks and ringlets of beloved
What else is their but to sew couplets with hairs falling on shoulders?

there was something in curly tresses of Belinda that tempted men
no Ghazal could reap such epic of mass hairs falling on shoulders

the other day you look so thatched, even the subtle fizz was gone
Ah! a labyrinth of words, an untidy braid, and hairs falling on shoulders

seeing them tumbling I could not stop from envisaging couplets
each fall, each wave, each tuft matters; hairs falling on shoulders!

patched and balding trees stand on the edges of The Lahore Canal
leafless they are wasted virgins without hairs falling on shoulders

Faiz could tell from Persian allusions the Beloved’s moods
I just kept my heart on the fall of hairs falling on shoulders

on a litter heap a woman with sooty face feeds on crumbs
at last ghazals free from fancies of hairs falling on shoulders

white cheeks, dimpled drive of contours, locks within locks
Ideally rekhta makes us a prisoner of hairs falling on shoulders

Ghazals can predict your intensions of strangling me suddenly
But the poet still wants to caress your hairs falling on shoulders.



Ghazal: desertion

The oppression will teach me rituals of faithfulness (Faiz Ahamd Faiz)

The time is not a mere reminder of your willful desertion
even the absence you choose have intensions of desertion

If you think you can survive alone and without rhyming
Let me tell you Ghazals are feminine known for desertion

Why did you pose so sensually with the red all around you?
For a moment I took you for a bride fancying desertion

How can I house your longings and frets squeezing couplets?
Oh! that body and those eyes spaces of benign desertion

Lahore is choked by fragments of dust and bridges winding up
strangled and pale I see you calling me even after desertion

The bombs cluttered bodies; limbs flew and merged with rain
clouds emptied of thunder, after faith chimed with desertion

Majnoon croons after Lalyia, Romeo indulges in long serenades
dissonant and without a crescendo Ghazals spill strings of desertion

You were peering on the surface of a gadget hoping to find me
Let us revive letters written in sadness and with burden of desertion

I wandered near Aarhus for a sign left by the Irish digger of verse,
in bogs I saw poems about stories of betrayal and desertion

You looked so epicurean in dream holding my food for the night
starved and bulimic I wasted crumbs; denote themes of desertion !

In The Royal Mosque the man in white hides behind the pillars
He is the lover of princesses simmering anecdotes of desertion

When you passed by me I promised you love in Urdu teeming tears
Later I wiped in English and found language revolting my desertion

I know you choose to be silent but keep a window slightly open
The poet can peep in your heart for this ghazal on desertion!



Ghazal: melancholy

The Lost glove is happy ( Vladimir Nabokov)

That image with a white nimbus around you is of melancholy
What else you will do to my heart already arrested in melancholy

Deeper in Lahore’s streets a dervish chants the story of his soul mate
I have wanted to follow his trail, Oh ! that voice dispersing melancholy

Now there is a least chance of returning to that mosque where we met
I held your hands wet with water from ablution, prayer and melancholy

Can there be a way that couplets are put to deep slumber for some time
ghazals become less predictable, only you and me with this melancholy

In English towns rhythms met cold winds fraught with your homely calling
I kept Urdu for personal moments, smoldering on heaths full of melancholy

How many of us can explain meanings behind these waving crowds
So an Urdu poet says why the city is so sad after his wave of melancholy

Keats met Fanny in letters, and filled a vase with ashes and verse
Later his heart consumed her; she buried him with “Ode to Melancholy”

Inside mosque there is a silent row of worshippers lost in personal rituals
Outside they are beggars, mocked and rebuffed; peripheries of melancholy

The silence you shared with me in your dream is not without a purpose
Grief comes in many ways, others call it Love with a stab of melancholy

Let me see you in a lonely corner with ghazals explaining your predicament
The poet would love to capture lines on your face, reading melancholy.


Ghazal: it is over

Because you are far away does not mean that it is over
Soon we will collaborate on a new space so it is not over

among the last few believers only our poet is restless
he settled for humble beginnings, doesn’t mean it is over

the small chance you had is now over after too much delay
come another time asking me to hold you till then it is over

the fragrance Faiz says is the waving flutter of unseen wind
what if I see your real entanglements murderess! now it is over

Phoenix was meant to take over cities buried in oblivion
see my couplets resurrecting, another “quest”; is it over?

The crowd lynched Qais, and made him an example for profanity
How many sins ghazals will cover, I seek penance, so it is over.

Brides from inner Lahore wear flimsy gowns and feeble veils
I hold your hands, you peep, body sweats, just wait! it is over

among people you are a carved idol waiting for an audience
I came to lift you in prayer and from tyranny of silence—it is over!

I have staked so much in you; ghazals are collateral earnings
Scheherazade was in love, did not know the price, finally it is over

Ghalib kept a metaphor for wild lovers running after mere shadows
Once allured they settle for their fate, at least for them it is over

In dusty evenings the first dim star is like a matla raising head
the poet thanks eternityfor suggesting so much, it is never over!


Rizwan Akhtar works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems in well-established poetry magazines of the UK, US, India, Canada, and New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.