Agha Shahid Ali

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

Shaving



In the mirror, the hand hacks at my skin
It belongs to the child who used his father's
blades for sharpening pencils, playing murder.

Full of cuts, I have the blood-effacing
instruments: water, water, and survival
tricks : I'm as clean

as glass, my brown face glistens
with oil, turns a fine olive green.
There's no return

to the sanctuary
of ripped paper-boat-journeys

This is morning, I must
scrub myself. A college lecturer, I smell of talcum
Old Spice and unwritten poems.

The mirror smiles back like a forgotten student:

The hairs die like ants in the basin.

My reflection gathers the night's dust,
I wipe it with the morning towels.

The girls drape their muslin shawls,
their necks turn on Isadora's wheels:

In the classroom I shuffle like unrhymed poetry

The blade, wet with Essenin's wrist,
waits with the unwritten poem.

Submitted: Saturday, June 16, 2012

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