Thursday Poem

A Requiem for Kashmir

—dedicated to the memory of Agha Ali Shahid

I don’t live in Kashmir
under siege
I am valley’s vicarious denizen
not far but complacently
picking metaphors
like the Irish bard Yeats
spread his dreams,
I am out to hoist
a color-free flag
an ancient anthem
echoing camaraderie
I caress
my mother’s Kashmiri shawl
(her humble dowry)
and touch a burgundy carpet
an image of a subdued Mongol
hemmed with juniper flowers
sits at the center holding
a wine’s pitcher pouring
being away my descriptions
are second-hand but I have
read poets praising Dal Lake
so between Shahid’s Ghazals
I can make way to peaks
and floundering paths
pellets and protests
cloyed in haze from trees
long witnessing
hauling shells of tear gas
in-between soldiers
chase people running
rioting verses
of their stoned lives
each thing is precious
a gun, a couplet.

by Rizwan Akhtar