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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 also published here, on the Ziauddin University Atlas Blog.
Man’s heart a river be
deeper in depth than the unfathomable oceans,
Ah! Who knows the wailing of the heart
in search of its Lord?
Sultan Bahu, d. 1691, (translated from the Punjabi bySayed Akhlaque Husain Tauhid i)
THERE is a stubborn Sohni in my soul who longs to cross the Chenab of two worlds to reach her beloved, Mahiwal. I refuse. She persists. I patiently explain how fragile my ghaṛiya; how vast—how turbulent—the waters. It is but a simple thing fashioned of simple, unbaked clay: how dare it aspire—ad astra—to the stars? She smiles at me and slowly shakes her lovely head.
A marvellous thing: as we watch the shoreline recede behind us—and the waters swirl higher, ever higher—my turbid heart settles for the first time since I was a boy of twelve and found that battered old copy of the Conference of the Birds and learnt of love and Love.
And together, my Sohni and I watch as ourMahiwal appears on the distant bank and dives into the waves and strikes out for our simple, fragile, star-seeking, little ghaṛiya.
(Still from the music video of Coke Studio’s “Paar Chanaan De” (Across the Chenab) by Noori ft. Shilpa Rao.)
A million years ago — as they sat by their little campfire — a father pointed out the constellations to his son. And the infinite night sky didn’t seem as intimidating anymore.
It’s the stories we grow up with that whisper the loudest within our hearts; they are the framework for our dreams; they pulse with the rhythm of our short, bright lives.
Thank you for giving me the stories that have made me who I am today. (Here is one of them.) Stories of social justice and dignity and equality. Stories of a divine love that is greater than the stars. And stories of who I was, who I am, and who I will be.
They are stories that will last a lifetime and I shall never tire of telling them.
Love you, forever and always.
Strangers leave us poems to tell of those
they loved, how the heart broke, to whisper
of the religion upstairs in the dark,
sometimes in the parlor amid blazing sunlight,
and under trees with rain coming down
in August on the bare, unaccustomed bodies.
Jack Gilbert, Relative Pitch
THE Nostalgia of the Infinite has been my favourite piece of art for as long as I can remember.
I don’t know when I first saw it — perhaps it had something to do with the indie game, Ico — but none of that truly matters. What matters is this:
That there is a deep and yearning nostalgia within Man’s heart. He feels it flutter when he looks upon the endless sea. He feels it tighten when he gazes up at the beckoning stars. He feels it even when he is with the one he loves most in the world.
The heart yearns to mingle itself with the object of its desire and it can not and so it yearns to be whole. It has yearned since the dawn of consciousness and it yearns still with each (lub dub) and every (lub dub) beat.
For there was once a time when it was not so — the heart was whole and it knew no sorrow. But that time has long since passed and is but a half-remembered dream from a childhood siesta for ever ago. But men will do strange things to appease their half-remembered dreams. Alexander led his armies to the very edge of the world. Thousands died in the impenetrable rainforests of the Amazon searching for El Dorado. And in a town called Babylon, a man built the greatest tower ever built to look upon the Face of God. It has always been so.
But look closer.
There they are, in plain sight.
And, as they lean closer in the empty piazza, for a moment, their shadows become…
a photograph is all that lasts long
with glory years and quiet fears gone
when summer days are far away
you can dream of skies and lover’s eyes
Shoecraft, Eyes, Blue
OF all the addictions that may plague a man, an addiction to love is the trickiest addiction to have. This is due to the singular fact that one can not buy love in the marketplace. If one could, that would be another matter entirely and we would not be having this conversation for I would be in the marketplace but we are, and I’m not, for it is — truly, insufferably — priceless.
Its effects are astounding. It can take a boy of fifteen — a promising young lad with a first-rate mind and sound disposition — and render him anaesthetised to worldly pursuits. The worlds of commerce and politics and sport are forever more left grey and drab to him. The gold stars of society no longer mean anything to him. He has glimpsed a world drenched in colour and he can not thrive without it. Over the years, he secretly feeds his addiction with scraps of poetry and ancient Persian treatises on Sufism. He devours literature with an unslakable thirst, searching, ever searching. He sees something he can not articulate in the way the sun sets behind lonely apartment complexes. Something beckons to him on the sea breeze as it blows through banyans in the hot afternoons. And something tightens in his chest every night as he watches the rising of the stars from the roof of his ancestral home. Everything he writes ends the same way: smeared with the half-remembered colours of forgotten love. Like waking from a dream and scrambling to put it all down before it’s lost to the aether; knowing it’s going, knowing it’s gone, knowing even as you begin to write that it’s useless and yet still grasping for another fix, you addict, happy in your addiction, wouldn’t trade it for the world because you’d rather your half-remembered colour than the grey, grey, grey of everyone and everything else…
There is a boy or a girl a thousand years hence on another planet who is reading all this, feeling all this. Here, Earth is merely a byword for an unspeakable nostalgia. I write to you — future-boy, future-girl — from your ancestral home. The colours are real. They exist. There is only one way to find them and there always has been. Good luck. Godspeed.