POETRY – Home through Frosted Lips

By Syed Riza Qadri

But, of course, Kashmir always wakes up as its own self every morning.

I’m in class but I steal two seconds to smuggle a look out the window. I caper through groaning wintery clouds, through the creaks of frosted bones. I blow my breath over the Chinar and marvel at the ripple of its copper leaves. Ever so plenty, ever so beautiful. I smile at red noses and hands rubbed together. I smile at the sweaters, the mufflers, the boots, and the crunch of gravel beneath them. I travel a thousand miles, yet it is always away. The tree with arms of leafless branches that it holds aloft with pride.

It seems to break down, though, before the One. And the arms are up in remembrance.The birds chirp to its murmurs of prayers as it heaves a sigh of cold gusts, and there appear shards of ice, swords of snow, hugging its very form. The tree is a thing of misery and majesty. It is in pain and it is so far away.

But, of course, it will be here tomorrow. And I’ll be, too.

(I came back today, but it was through a different path that I never chose. I saw upturned firepots and admonishing mothers, and then I saw scraps of papers being adorned with colour. Crisp leaves spiralled off the dusky ground to greet me, to meet me. ‘As-salāmu ʿalaykum.’ ‘Wa ʿalaykumu s-salām!” By the time I reached I had wings of dead leaves and a lost heart.

The tree was not a tree anymore. It was nothing. As though it had never prayed, never sighed, never lived. Never bled.)

The STORM-BLAST came, and he Was tyrannous and strong*

By Aqsa Ahmed.

There is an albatross

hovering,

About my person.

Sometimes he flies south,

But returns erelong.

I am afraid he never leaves.

I did shoot at him once,

Regained my hold of the helm

And sailed out.

But guilt crept back and hung around my neck until he healed strong.        

I kneel in the dawn,

Just as sunlight begins to trail on my floor and    

beseech freedom.

“Release me from this trammel,

let me swim away merciful albatross.”

                                                                                But he hovers about my person.

“Oh, strange soul”, says he

“My wandering marinere.

I am tyrannous and strong,

You are haggard

 

and thin.”

                                                                        “And I am sorry my little one –

                                                                 But you do not yet know how to swim.”

*Please note: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner L.41-42 (all lines it italics hereafter reference this text)

You can read more of Aqsa’s poems published on I RISE here.

Featured image credits: “storm waves by Kristian Leov.