Thursday Poem

Only a Few
—a Ghazal From Ghalib

سب کہاں کچھ لالہ و گل میں نمایاں ہو گئیں
خاک میں کیا صورتیں ہونگی کہ پنہاں ہو گئیں

Not all, only a few come back to us in tulips.
Many more lie buried, dust on their sleeping eyelids.

By day, the daughters of Pleiades unwind out of sight.
At night, they shed their veils in ravishing display.

My eyes pour blood on this night of savage partings,
Two lamps I have lighted to burn in love’s agony.

I will make them pay for the years of torment, if
By chance, these sirens play houris in paradise.

Sleep is his, his too are rapture and silken nights,
If she unties her jasmine-breathing hair in his arms.

I have no use for your coy approaches to the divine.
Beyond your piety and creeds, we worship God alone.

If Ghalib were to keep this up (he cries inconsolably),
Sand will fill your streets, lizards will take the town..

Interpretation by M. Shahid Alam