It’s only ghosts here in the winter.
When you’re in love all this
“life” stuff feels like a play —
a game; a dream. And when
you’re not, it’s not. That’s just
how it works. Nights like these
I feel like I’ve forgotten how to
dream. I used to dream of flying.
I miss the wind in my hair, the
sun on my face. But most of
all, I miss your sighs; how the
longing in them would rise up —
up through the zephyrs and comets —
dissolving into stardust that just
might, with a bit of luck, power
the universe for an-
Time was a string of knots, a spiked wheel,
a seam that you could split and heal—
As a boy, reclining on horsehair
one morning on a train,
you watched the countryside,
a single light-filled frame
in which lives flickered, drawn forward
like a train along a track; you saw yourself,
suspended in a fractured, endless motion,
going, never going back.
Lauren Wilcox, The Moving-Picture Principle,The Paris Review, Summer 2004
AND then there was that band that had that song called the Loving Sounds of Static. Before then, I’d never thought of static as something that could be loving; beautiful, even.
And then I learnt the only thing I remember from high-school physics: that 2% of the static you hear on old radios as you turn the dial from station to station at sunset is primordial waves — remnants of the Big Bang destined to course forever more through the lonely spaces between the stars and I feel a bit strange knowing that, don’t you?
And the band was called Möbius Band and a Möbius strip is a band, too — not the musical kind — but kinda like the one you wear around your wrist except it has a twist in it so you can visit both sides — inside, outside — without lifting your finger.
And Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, famously, about the bittersweet songs of distant earth but he also wrote about a wall of darkness at the edge of an alien universe and I remember reading it twice in one go and wondering at the magic of it all, and wanting to be a writer, and that was about a Möbius strip, too.
And since then, that’s what I think of whenever I hear static on old radios: sci-fi and interstellar origins and whatever it is that lies just beyond the border of everything. But more and more, now, I think of those quiet evenings spent endlessly tracing a finger along the continuous surface of a band worn, once upon a time, by you.
Slaves in the realm of love are the only truly free men.
Ibn Ammar, Seville, Arab Andalusia
And I’ll love you like the sun loves California.
Beth Hart, My California
it demands a new vocabulary for
it is the fifth season
it is deciduous
it is like those flowers in the desert
that bloom once in a blue moon after long
nights of rain and fade away in the face of
solar slaughter leaving behind
the singing sand dunes
to tell of them
to tell of us
can not find the words
to tell of you
to tell of me
to tell of us.
there are only
like an addict Gilbert begged the gods
“let me fall in love one last time”
he said and
i get it.
it can be hard to live so long
in the grey to live so long
that you yearn for the colours
because you’ve — almost, almost —
forgotten what blue looks like
what you look like
these are words on paper
these are pixels on a screen
one of these days they’ll upload you
to the web and stream you to the stars
you’ll materialise on the other side
a little tired, a little bewildered
but pretty much the same except for
what was it?
it’s right on the tip of your tongue
it’s all that they couldn’t put into
ones and zeroes because
there’s no language
there’s no lexicon
to tell of you
to tell of me
to tell of us
This post was first published here, on the Ziauddin University Atlas Blog.
WHEN I was a boy and still believed in magic, I would frequent book fairs searching for the first poem I fell in love with. Some books, with their glossy covers, promised so much… but they never could live up to those glistening promises. Others were dingy paperbacks, coming apart at the seams and, while they were alright for a slow Sunday, they weren’t much good for much else. And so it was that I found myself at yet another book fair, picking my way through the endless shelves, careful to avoid the stacks of solemn textbooks, hoping to find it – whatever it was.
And there it was.
There was just one copy, standing upright on a small, empty table. And the cover was purple. Why the hell is it purple? I thought. I picked it up. It was a hardcover; a slim little volume printed in a timeless serif typeface. It seemed to be divided into short anecdotes, punctuated with gorgeous brush drawings. “A gift for distinguished men and a boon for the common”, it claimed. Cool. I hoped it wasn’t too expensive: I had just a bit of pocket money left. I took it to the counter. One hundred and thirty rupees, please. I fished around in my pockets. A red note – yes! That’s a hundred rupees! And… a bunch of tens, too! One, two, three. Perfect! I had the exact amount. Poor but happy, I returned home to see if this purple thing was worth the last of my lucre.
In the coming years, after I had read and re-read and folded and scribbled and underlined my copy of the Conference into tatters, I would look back on those one hundred and thirty rupees as the best one hundred and thirty rupees I had ever spent.
Ostensibly, the Conference of the Birds is about a epic quest by a group of birds to find their king. They journey across mountains and valleys and seas. They journey through the many gilded cities and rural backwaters of love. It’s about love. And the yearning in your tired, aching heart, late into the night, when all your desires melt away, save one.
Look, either the Conference of the Birds is the best book you’ll ever read, or it’s not. Great things are polarising that way. Anything else I say beyond this point will just ruin it for you. There’s only one way to find out and there always has been. Read the damn book.
SHINE Humanity is a registered NGO dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare and clean drinking water to underserved populations.
As President of SHINE Humanity’s Youth Board, I gave a presentation on SHINE’s charitable activities to the students and faculty of Karachi Grammar School.
A rough sea!
Stretched out over Sado
The Milky Way.
Matsuo Bashō (1644–94)
The classical masters of old say it is bad
luck to play the wrong tune at the wrong
time. Every raga echoes a certain mood,
they say, in tune with the colours of the
hours and the watches of the night. The
old haiku masters of Japan agree. Every
haiku only belongs to a certain season,
crafted with the words particular to that
season. So they spoke of summer rains,
autumn loves, winter dreams; and —
beneath it all — the call of the deep, deep
north. And here we are, ragas out of time,
haikus out of space, trying to find our way
home while in our tired hearts beats the
call of the deep, deep north.