Agha Shahid Ali

(4 February 1949 – 8 December 2001 / New Delhi / India)

A History of Paisley:


You who will find the dark fossils of paisleys
one afternoon on the peaks of Zabarvan -
Trader from an ancient market of the future,
alibi of chronology, that vain
collaborator of time - won't know that these
are her footprints from the day the world began.

(Oh see, it is still the day the world begins:
and the city rises, holding its remains,
its wooden beams already their own fire's prophets.)

And you, now touching sky, deaf to her anklets
still echoing in the valley, deaf to men
fleeing from soldiers into dead-end lanes

(Look! Their feet bleed; they leave footprints on the street
which will give up its fabric, at dusk, a carpet) -
you have found-you'll think- the first teardrop, gem
that was enticed for a mogul diadem
into design...

...three men are discussing, between
sips of tea, undiscovered routes on emerald
seas, ships with almonds, with shawls for Egypt.
It is dusk. The gauze is torn. A weaver kneels,
gathers falling threads. Soon he will stitch the air.

(The Country without a post office, 1997)

Submitted: Saturday, June 16, 2012

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