An eleven year old boy from Aleppo
whose eyes hold only things no longer there
– a citadel, a moat, safe rooms of shadow,
‘afterwardness’ in his thousand yard stare –
years later, decades even, might turn around
to see, through the long tunnel of that gaze,
a yard, a pond and pine trees that surround,
as in a chaharbagh, four branching pathways.
Where do memories hide? the pine trees sing.
In language of course, the four pathways reply.
What if the words be lost? the pine trees sigh.
Lost, the echo comes, lost like me in air.
Then sing, the pathways answer, sigh and sing
for the echo, for nothing, no one, nowhere.
Ghazal: It’s Heartache
When you wake to jitters every day, it’s heartache.
Ignore it, explore it, either way, it’s heartache.
Youth’s a map you can never refold,
from Yokohama to Hudson Bay, it’s heartache.
Follow the piper, lost on the road,
whistle the tune that led him astray: it’s heartache.
Stop at the roadside, name each flower,
the loveliness that will always stay: it’s heartache.
Why do nightingales sing in the dark?
Ask the radif, it will only say ‘it’s heartache’.
Let khalvati, ‘a quiet retreat’,
close my ghazal and heal as it may its heartache.
Child: New and Selected Poems (Carcanet Press 2011)
Come close the flower says and we come close,
close enough to lift, cup and smell the rose,
breathe in a perfume deep enough to find
language for it but, words having grown unkind,
think back instead to a time before we knew
what we know now. When every word was true
and roses smelt divine. What went wrong?
Long before the breath of a cradle song.
Some lives fall, some flower. And some are granted
birthrights, a verandah, a sunken quadrant
of old rose trees, a fountain dry as ground
but still a fountain, in sense if not in sound.
Like a rose she slept in the morning sun.
Each vein a small blue river, each eyelash shone.