A Prison Evening
Each star a rung,
night comes down the spiral
staircase of the evening.
The breeze passes by so very close
as if someone just happened to speak of love.
In the courtyard,
the trees are absorbed refugees
embroidering maps of return on the sky.
On the roof,
the moon – lovingly, generously -
is turning the stars
into a dust of sheen.
From every corner, dark-green shadows,
in ripples, come towards me.
At any moment they may break over me,
like the waves of pain each time I remember
this separation from my lover.
This thought keeps consoling me:
though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed
in rooms where lovers are destined to meet,
they cannot snuff out the moon, so today,
nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed,
no poison of torture make me bitter,
if just one evening in prison
can be so strangely sweet,
if just one moment anywhere on this earth.
English Translation by Agha Shahid Ali
Some Lover to Some Beloved!
Down the memory lanes, on which
you’ve strolled since ages past
They will end if you walk farther a step or two
Where exits the turn towards the wilderness of forgetfulness
beyond which, there isn’t any Me, nor any You
My eyes hold their breath, for any moment you
may turn back, move ahead, or at least turn to look back
Although my sight knows that the wish is just a farce
For if ever it were to run across your eyes again
right there will spring forth another pathway
Like always, where ever we run into, there will begin
another journey of your lock’s shadow, your embrace’s tremor
The other wish is also in error, for my heart knows
There is no turn here, no wilderness, no mountain-range
beyond whose horizon, my perpetual sun-of-your-Love can set
May you continue walking these pathways, its better this way
If you don’t even turn to look back, it is okay
Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) was a prominent revolutionary Indo-Pakistani poet. In a brief career with the British Indian Army he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the MBE in 1946. He became an active member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement and in 1962 he became the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union.
Human Rights & Culture is grateful to Poemhunter for these poems. These and many other samples of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s work may be found at: http://www.poemhunter.com/