Poetry

There Was Something There, In That

There was something there, in that, 

he said. In that night on the roof 

with the meat glistening golden as 

it turned above the great fires. And 

how we tore into the soft meat and 

sat back from the carnage; satisfied, 

spent. There was something there, in 

that, he said. In that walk, too, 

through the dusty park to the dhaba 

and the warm cups of milky tea. And 

how we took the long way home. 

Afterwards, I started up the car and 

we drove back there again. There were 

no stars that night and the dhaba was 

closed. But in the alley between, a 

man quietly fried parathas by the light 

of a little flame. And though it wasn’t 

that, there was something there, in that, 

too.

  

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Poetry

Thalassa 

For Prof. Dr. M. N. Shabbir, F.R.C.S.(Ed.)

A small clinic by the sea. Fans whir

lazily against the hot Karachi summer.

Most of the fishermen are here out of

curiosity. One day, yes, they will build

me a model ship with the lights and the

little toy soldiers holding their little

green flags just as they once did for

my father. The sun sets, then, and we

close up for the day and lay down our

two red steths. We sit on the roof, yes,

with our warm cups of doodh-patti and

talk of Attar and his thirty birds. And

it is like being alive twice. Meanwhile,

yes, the old, old stars rise over the old,

old seas.

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Poetry

Haunted

As darkness falls 

the heart yearns for something known

once

now gone forever. 

Old memories of 

old, old friends 

and 

old, old loves

now gone forever. 

And something else, too — 

they’d meet every night

the whole gang

at the haunted house at the end of lane.

They did that for five summers straight

drunk on summer wine

and the summer night

and being fifteen in that city by the sea

until one day 

someone bought the haunted house at the end of the lane.

They all just sort of stood there for a while 

watching the stars shine above the new wall and the new gate. 

He was the last one to leave.

When the others asked him

later

he did not tell them of seeing Chronos 

a-sitting on the gate

or of Thanos

wheeling in the star-studded sky. 

He only smiled and

shook his head and

put his arms about them.

They walked off towards Alamgir

and the man who sold French fries by the side of the road. 

Behind them, the lane grew dim  

and lost its magic — 

until the next time. 

  

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Prose

Eternal Summer (or HOPC)

One who has lived many years in a city, so soon as he goes to sleep,

Beholds another city full of good and evil, and his own city vanishes from his mind.

He does not say to himself, “This is a new city: I am a stranger here” ;

Nay, he thinks he has always lived in this city and was born and bred in it.

What wonder, then, if the soul does not remember her ancient abode and birth-place,

Since she is wrapt in the slumber of this world, like a star covered by clouds?—

Especially as she has trodden so many cities and the dust that darkens her vision is not yet swept away.

Rūmī 

SOMETHING’S broke, doc. Something’s broke. You gotta help me. It’s broke inside and I — I just can’t fix it. I had this dream, see? Well, it wasn’t a dream dream. Like I was asleep, sure, but it was real too, you know?

I seen this place, doc. This big ol’ school field. Biggest field you ever seen. And me? I’m standing by the edge of it watching these kids play in the field. They’re kicking around this old football and one of ’em, he sees me, and he’s waving across that big ol’ field.

“Come on!” he’s saying, “whatcha waiting for?”

And I look closer and it’s the guys, doc! It’s the guys! I ain’t seen them in years! So I run over to ’em and we play and we play and we play. We play until the sun’s low in the sky and it hurts my eyes just to look at it.

And then? Then we just sit there in that big ol’ field, catching our breaths, watching the sun set on another summer’s day. Summer ends way too soon, huh doc?

Now in the dream I start to feel thirsty, see? So I tell the guys I’ll be right back. The school’s right there — just up ahead — and I walk to the courtyard, all the way to the water fountain. The water tastes a little funny, yeah, but it’s alright. It’s pretty cold.

It’s all a bit spooky though, you know? School’s are always spooky at that hour. I mean, just think about it, doc! Think about all those empty classrooms, all those empty desks and chairs facing empty blackboards all night long. It’s spooky!

So I wanna get the heck out of there as fast as I can. I drink that water, doc, eyes closed, trying not to think of what’s in them empty classrooms. And then I feel cold, doc. All of a sudden, I feel cold. I look up and the sun’s setting and it’s almost set so I turn and I run back towards the field. But when I make it out of there, the field’s empty and the sun’s set and it’s all grey, doc. It’s all grey.

I wake up, then, and I’m covered in a cold sweat but it’s just a dream, right? So I turn over and I go back to sleep. In the morning I wake up and I remember and it’s spooky and all but it’s just a dream, right? So I head to the shower. But I can’t tell the hot water tap from the cold water tap. They’re both grey!

It’s been a week and it’s all grey now, doc. You and your desk and the light from that window and the city outside that window. It’s all grey now. It’s all grey. I don’t wanna live in the grey, doc. You gotta help me! You got a pill or something? I never been on any pills, doc, but I’d take ’em just to see the colours again.

Colour’s grand, doc, ain’t it? It’s like summer, doc. And this grey? Well, I been shivering in it for too long now.

You gotta help me, doc. You can fix it, can’t you? Fix what’s broke inside? I sure hope you can, doc, cause by god I’m sick—’n—tired of it. I ain’t crazy, doc. I ain’t. I been going to work and I been going to church and I been eating my vegetables. I even laid off the smokes, honest doc!

But it’s just so grey. I can’t take it anymore. I miss the colours, you know?

I miss not being broke inside.

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