The great Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) gifted this paper-filled world with beautiful, crushing words.
The moon did not become the sun.
It just fell on the desert
in great sheets, reams
of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now,
the day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper.
I have read this poem from Palestinian writer Laila al Saih (1936- ) several times since I recently stumbled upon it in this anthology, and I am still in awe of its pitch perfect blend of strength and vulnerability, clarity and bewilderment.
“Intimations of Anxiety”
You do not know how hard it is,
transfiguring blood into ink–
emerging from one’s secret dream
to voicing the dream.
Perhaps I need years to understand
what swirls within me when we meet.
Do you know that constellations of cities and paths tangle
restlessly in the sand?
I do not know the name
for such sweet incandescence.
Even now I have not discovered all the stars
fanning out in the soul and body
like eloquent shining symbols.
Under a mass of snow
a violet is patiently waiting.
Each opening rose partakes of
the patience of ages.
There are things we must share,
and how the word takes shape within me.
Pulled between a world that created me
and a vaporous world I wish to create,
I begin again.
Each time you transform me
into a haze,
Wait for my anxiety
for this nameless creature thumping
in my breast.
I begin again
with your book,
from your book,
reading the first pages
over and over, dazzled, amazed,
enveloped by vast days and puzzling depths,
saying: The moment will come
in which I discover language,
voice of the sun’s fruits,
dialect of waves engulfing my heart.
Maybe then I will be able to add
a single syllable to this existence–
this arduous impossible task.