Poetry 2018 Longlist Aftab Yusuf Shaikh

ABOUT A LOVE

I was nine when I saw
a dream or should I call it a nightmare
because it was night when I saw it
because it was on a mare that she sat

Emma, she was, I told myself
the breeze of early mornings
that kissed my face to wake me up
that was her, I christened her Emma.

These stones of rotten days,
this heart of mine, blew up, rose up
in joy and remorse, in gain and loss,
that name had something in it
something like that unknown pain
deep deep in my heart which makes
me write verse after verse
that nobody reads, that makes them weep
and I, the joker, the jolly good fellow,
become a thorn in the ass and an outcast
all because I wrote and all because I loved. Twice.

Her arrival, in advance was known to
me like her departure,
taking her name too seriously
she will disappear into the universe
never to be found again but
still always keeping over me a watch

The loud shatter of my heart echoed
in the heavens and yet she heard
not a sigh. Maybe I wasn’t so close.
And she used to smile, her bloodsucking smile,
O! How I could lay down lives for that smile,

These girls today, don’t learn a thing.
I told her it is in the eyes and then,
even then the blind girl saw nothing?
How much I loved her and wanted her
before breathing my last breath, so blind?

The simplest of girls, that frail creature
how it ruined me is beyond imagination
the dreams, the nights, the words
the music, the love, the agony, the hatred,
the hurt, the pleasure, the what-not, all painted in her name

Were it that she met by some place
where it is me and her none else
I would have placed on her lips that kiss
which try as hard as she may,
she could have never forgotten,
and my fingers in her hair and her whims and fancies
being fulfilled by me,
and we drinking love, with eyes, lips and skin,
that passion which I had stored for her
so safely that it never came to happen,

Sweet things they were, so never happened
and all that was, was her stumble
on the stairs toward her dreams
and she fell and I gave her my hand
and she rose up and walked out, out
out, of the fantasy.

The woods whistled and the ground creaked
too heavy was my love for this life
so I took her in my arms, up the sky,
but even there she saw not my heart,
only the stars and their sparkle,
and I wept on endless nights while
tears flew all on the inside
and everyone said, always smiling, oh so funny,
and I hate the stars, and the night and the moon and me!

I taught her words and she taught me
how to love and lose people
her moral lessons on how wrong
so fucking wrong was my love
because people felt so, as if it were
the people who were now bearing my heart’s ache

At times I have wished to place her in a glass
palace where, no one sees her or touches
or even imagines her, but in that palace too
she could see those she had seen with love
and she could imagine the person who had her heart
I thought she was not mine, one ache,
she loved me, ache two,
and she never told me, ache thousand.

Should I kill her, in my memory?
I had foolishly thought and I tried
to hate her to kill her to forget
and I could forget easily who I was but
not her, not her for a moment.
You can hate people, disgrace them.
even kill them, but you can never unlove them.

The woods will no longer whistle
and ground will not creak under her feet
when she, my Emma, comes to meet me
at the end of all this hullaballoo
she will come to sit by and talk to me
but three yards beneath the earth
her words will mean nothing to me.

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