a few short miles

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

fortunate are those
who find themselves in their place
and whose life flows gently around them
like a calm stream around a submerged rock

everything comes and goes

people come and go

and we, we stay just where we are

~

fortunate are those firmly rooted
whose life piles on like more topsoil
so that even a bitter wind changes nothing

~

when all is said and done
what matters may be how much we mattered
or else, how certain those remaining,
could feel that we have not truly left

~

the ties that come to bind us
together are Given and made

i get it, i finally get it
but maybe i got it too late

~

there’s nothing quite so wonderful as being alone
until alone is all that’s left

and we are left wondering how to catch
that train, that would have taken us on a known track
with known ones
and on which the only stops would have been
tenderness, love
and a little grief
for a few short miles,
before the end

hooked

abstract art background brown
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

i’m hooked,

these needles have pulled
at my heartstrings and
started to weave the
threads together in

a tight basket pattern
that binds me strand by strand in itself
and tugs unyieldingly
if i get too far away

it’s love

and i don’t know how it happened

ab teri mohabbat laagi, mere Saheb

it took years for feelings to grow
and now it has become clear
where i am always being pulled

shukhran lillah wal hamdulillah

the centre (2019)

ismaili centre toronto
Image sourced from TheIsmaili.org: http://www.theismaili.org/ismailicentres/toronto/architecture-toronto-0

think, if someone were to be given
a softer heart,

one that was able to feel the soul
in everything

~

we came when called just enough times
that the abode before us consented to transform our lives

a place where love literally throbs,
the heart and soul of the structure that is the centre of our lives

all of us have become so much more and less than we were, here.

~

the centre has become my centre
and has captured the centre at the centre of me

it spills over its edges into the rest of my life and
makes the rest of my life part of itself too

i am pulled here unyieldingly
as though in the arms of a vortex spinning so fast i can’t even tell
where it begins and where i end

there is nothing i feel that doesn’t get resolved
once i’ve come back to my centre;
not a single worry that isn’t smoothed, a fear that isn’t untangled
once i’ve been here at my core

~

the people here are like the sound inside a seashell,
telling stories of separate drops flowing together to their ultimate end,

each one making an impression on my heart

~

this place makes me face those things about myself that i would rather ignore,
such as my obvious unworthiness

but of course, that is exactly why i’ve come

~

brother, you might do it better than me
and you might know something i don’t

but i won’t hold it against you
since you are here to show me what i could be,
not what i am not

and thank God, thank you, for giving us this place
to come to.


This poem, written shortly after the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, is meant to capture the deep meaning that spaces of community and worship can bring to our lives over time, as well as the newfound meaning we can obtain from the seemingly familiar by engaging on many different levels. This piece is a followup to the original “the centre (2014)”, available to read here.

The place we last met

pexels-photo-316587

All a person wants is to be loved,

to be told that it will be difficult being apart from them.
That when push comes to shove, their presence matters most.

Life unfolds in the moments between being loved,
while waiting for the beloved to return to the place we last met.

~

Dearest,
do you know that I love you in every moment,
whether you are present with me there or not?

I would run unnecessary errands just to be with you,
give you my opinion on a great many things for which I do not care, simply to be in your conversation.

Your gratitude is welcome but what I really want is your hand, your uninterrupted gaze.

~

I would follow you to the end of your journey before undertaking my own,
for a few moments of love promised.

Are you coming to meet me soon?

when it rains

Rainy night. Image sourced from http://picjumbo.com/rainy-view-from-the-car-at-night/
Rainy night. Image sourced from http://picjumbo.com/rainy-view-from-the-car-at-night/

we become lovers again when it rains,
huddled up against a common unpleasance

songs we know crackle over the radio
not because this is vintage
but because the FM transmitter is acting up

we are twenty-first century people;
we’ve spent the past few weeks accomplishing much with our thumbs

tonight is like the olden days,
when we felt these songs together for the first time
and let them soak up the space between us.

Navroz Mubarak (2015)

Shoots of wheat. Image sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatgrass.
Shoots of wheat. Image sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatgrass.

These days our eyes have opened to another sun,
quite further and beyond the one
that dapples everything with gold these evenings.

For the first time in our lives we yearn to cry,

navroz mubarak!

not for what has happened with us
but for what we hope will happen to you as well.

~

The day is here, and this time, springtime clichés are no longer.
Some seeds have grown up on their own into meaning.

How to describe this blessing?

Closing our eyes becomes the same as opening them;
this light continues beyond sight.

We are truly one this time, angelic in the abounding clarity
which at once we can see, and not see.

In our blessed gathering we are as light as we have ever been,
our true selves merging, one another with the rest.

~

Navroz (or Nowruz) is a festival celebrated around the world to commemorate the beginning of a new year and the first day of spring.

To learn more about Navroz, visit Wikipedia.org and/or TheIsmaili.org.

To read “navroz (2014)” on this blog, click here.

white plains

Image source: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/506381
Image source: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/506381

the night sets in deeper as we trudge across these white plains
crisscrossed with patterns of tire tracks

i whisper a desperate prayer: keep my love safe, and warm

it is one thing in theory to imagine being without you;
quite another to make this trek on my own

a few flecks of snow cling to the tear streams on my cheeks

i clasp my hands together, keeping close the hope of seeing you again.

~

We may be only a few miles from our beloved, and our white plains may be only parking lots, but: the great love stories are happening here, with us, today. Never was there a better time to feel, to love, to miss; to be.

two poems: “Museum” and “courtyard, unedited”

Two poems: Museum and courtyard, unedited

These pieces were written while and after visiting the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. The first, Museum, is a reflection on history, civilizations, art and interpretation. The second piece, courtyard, unedited, was penned while sitting in the Museum’s inner courtyard, and has intentionally been left unedited in order to maintain for the reader, the flow of inspiration as originally felt. It contains English as well as another Hindi-Urdu mixed language that sometimes spills onto the page. Please excuse my rough transliteration attempt as neither of these is my first language.

DSC_0412
View of the courtyard, looking up from the main floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.

Photos taken in and around the Aga Khan Museum, courtesy of Asif Virani, 2014.
View of the courtyard from the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.

DSC_0441
Up-close view of one of the metal screens/jaali on the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.

Museum

What will the people from days to come decide to make of us,
what will they preserve in their halls?

Those gone by have become to us what remains of them,
after all tribulation and epiphany fell away into dust.

They have become what we can still understand of them.

~

There is too much left to know about knowing; not enough left to see.

We fear we are penning lines already penned by those greater than us,
a people that truly saw the truth unfold.

Nothing can be said now that has not been said before;
our efforts, mere echoes of a greater, grander voice.

What inspired these carvers, and what were they trying to say –
can we be certain that we have preserved ourselves against misunderstanding?

Did they create these shapes because those are what they saw,
or were they too, seeking to lose themselves in detailed but repetitive abstraction?

Do these patterns transcend a name?

~ ~ ~

courtyard, unedited

is jahaan mein hum upna sub kuch kho sakte hain,
sub kuch seekh  bhi saktehain

aisa husn ko bananekiliye, aisi roshni, is roshni, ki zaroorat hai

this light is something like the light of the heavens and the earth;
this light has an unnameable quality to it,
a way for all to see all

bathed in it my hand resting on the table becomes something from another world,
translucent, light diffusing outward in the place of rosy flesh

your eyes are from another time here, where patterns repeat themselves to liberate beyond eye’s capacity, where voices rise to a crescendo and we take in,

light,
light,
light, light light,

upon our hands, our face, and every
one is so beautiful here today

yahaan aake kuch bhi likhdijiye,
sub kuch shahiri banjayegi

yahaan aake kuch khaaneki zaroorat nahin mehsoos hoti,
in hawaaon, saa(n)son, is jahaan ka rooh hi kaafi hai

yahaan rehekar kuch chaate hai hum,
kuch khona bhi chaate hain

kuch cheez samaj na chaate hain hum,
kuch cheez humko yaad aatihai

kuch cheez hamaari thi, hamaari hai,
hamaare dil me se nikalke,
humhi ke aage jhoom uthi

keherahihai:

agar aapke dil mein koi baat phool ki tarha khilrahihain,
to usse khilne do;
mat sochiye

agar aapke ander koi baat hai, to aap dil ki zubaan se usse pehsh karo,
chaahe koi samje ya na samje

agar koi lafz kaafi nahin lagte,
to khudh ke lafaazon banaalo

khudh ki zubaan banaalo,

koi samje, ya na samje

~

A rough translation of courtyard, unedited:

in this place/world we can lose/forget everything of/about ourselves;
we can also learn everything

to make this kind of beauty, this type of light, this light, is needed

come here and write anything at all,
it will become poetry / anything written here becomes poetry

here, there is no need felt for eating,
these winds, breaths, the soul of this place/world is enough

staying/being here, we desire something;
also, something we wish to lose

some things we understand,
and some things, we remember

some things were ours, are ours;
some things come out from our own hearts
and have come alive/to dance in front of us

they say:

if something blossoms like a flower in your heart,
then allow it to blossom,
think not

if there is something in you that wants to be said, then use the language of your heart to convey it,
whether anyone understands or not

if no words seem enough,
then make up your own words

make up your own language,

whether anyone understands, or not

what we know about ourselves (2014)

Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.
Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.

we love only that which is our own

a man, with his wife and son:
who do you think he truly loves?

~

it rains and rains

you approach, drenched and desolate,
a shelter for me, if only i would accept you

~

i wish we could say,
we are always happy with what we know about ourselves

i wish we could say,
we come with noble intention,
that we have been saving our last loaf
for the hunger of another

i wish we could say
we fall to our knees and kiss the ground,
thankful each day
for the fact that we can feel

~

sometimes when it rains
a gray runs down our face too

and sometimes,
we wish we could deny that we enjoy it

else, why would we drink the drink of self,
that warming wine of separation?

why would we continue being what we are?

~

we are, men in all of our abasement;
men, in all of our greatness

we bend lower
so that others might be jealous of our righteousness

we paint peace on our face
that they might admire our beauty as we pray

~

when everything is gray
go ask for it to be better
for someone else;

what you would have happen to you,
have it happen to someone else

oh dearest, you’ve never really been
hungry; never really been sad

you’ve never really needed anything you didn’t already have

come, smooth over the wrinkles on someone else’s face

make them yours,

and love them too.

retreat (2014)

tonight, we are so quiet
that the heavens themselves reach
down to take us up, to take us in

for days we have retreated
into and away from ourselves,
at times ebbing, at times flowing

~

nothing and no one can give us what we already have

my heart’s tapestry is woven with your thread
but i was the patient weaver

i’ve known your melody for a time
but i’ve made my music longer

the gifts you gave were empty boxes
until the moment i opened them

~

tonight, i am the night
and the stars, and the breeze

i deepen

and then i fade
into the morning light

neither here nor there (2014)

today, i write of my state to the beloved,
with words, neither here nor there

~

your absence is felt so strongly
that i am awake while sleeping,
asleep while awake

my heart is nothing and an entire ocean:
waters flow through themselves and disappear

 

i rise and set in a weakening rhythm

 

i look for you so long in the distance  that i fade into it,
but still i am apart from you

 

~

 

in other language all of this
makes sense to me,
whether you understand it or not

if only my voice reaches to you,
that would be enough

 

your absence takes up residence in my eyes

 

every day i look down your road
to find you have gone farther and farther

every day i see my own eyes
and they ask me, where am i,

where am i?

to the beloved (2014)

A colour we cannot name.  © Saara Punjani 2014.
A colour we cannot name.
© Saara Punjani 2014.

the water of the stream flows to its end
and i, flow in all planes to the beloved

the beloved calls, and i dissolve into the wind;
the beloved exists, so i go

~

these waters gleam now and again silver,
now and again a colour we cannot name

once,

we think,

we think we glimpsed the beloved’s face reflected there

now we undertake this pilgrimage every day

~

the beloved is, so i am too,

for the moment

the water of the stream flows to its end

and i, on my way to the beloved

in my veins, in my blood (2014)

i write a letter to the beloved
my fingers move only in love

i move in love
and love moves me;
i turn,
i turn,
i turn

~

which sense to keep when loved by the beloved;
which of any of my things could i need?

what use for eyes that see the beloved everywhere;
for direction when upon the beloved’s door?

nothing need make be sense said anymore

the beloved knows what i would write before i do;
the beloved in my veins, in my blood

to speak of this, is to be silent (2014)

to speak of this, is to be silent

~

this night bears witness of the re-emergence of i
who extracts the self from the folds of us all
to take up seat in the presence of the beloved

 

who can stay locked up when the beloved comes to call;
who can refuse the sweet companionship?

every surface on which the beloved’s gaze falls,
loves, breathes, swings and sways in rapture

~

no one taught me how to find you
but you taught me
by the pen

no one told me i already knew you
but you tell me
over again

inside me, whole seas part
to reveal the way
to your shore

i have come upon myself
in a way
like never before

~

the shores of my heart (2014)

i close my eyes and listen for the arrival
of the beloved on the shores of my heart

~

where is the beloved now, even he does not know;
the horizon, an ever-unreachable illusion across the vast empty sky

i linger still, in the sand of our memories
which even now is freshly turned with the tread of soft feet

every wave which comes to bump up against my heart
sings a slightly different song than the one before it

in every stone i see the face of the beloved looking back at me;
in every wave is the depth of his eyes

each wave comes asking to move me,
to share news of the beloved’s journey from afar

do i want to know what news they carry of the beloved?

~

the last vessel has sailed from my shores

and there are none who can carry me across myself

i cannot send anyone after the beloved
but i take comfort in knowing
that i see the very same horizon
as he

~

i am quiet;
i am still

a stone thrown could not change this

and neither could one pour more water
to move me

 

the shower of your blessing (2014)

this, is the shower of your blessing
the one that comes down as music
needing only something off which to sound

we hover now, on the best place there is:
on the threshold, a step away from your rain,
but not fully inside of it

 

only here can we truly appreciate what you send

 

were we immersed,
we could not see how this rain drops abundantly on every leaf,
each of which curls, bows, in gratitude

were we too far away
we could not see how this rain constantly merges with itself,
ever merging into larger course

 

a trickle to a stream, a stream to a river:
instinctively, we know where this merger leads

what sun shines here (2014)

a flower blooms steadily in love:

desiring for sun to gaze upon its every part

yearning for dew to slide slowly over each curve

 

at the peak of its love, each petal arches so strongly

that it breaks free of everything and goes on

~

what sun shines here, a dusty lamp;
what morning wet, a mere drop

tell me, if i break free,
will you place a palm underneath and carry me?

the world and places like it (2014)

The most beautiful thing. © Saara Punjani 2014.
The most beautiful thing. © Saara Punjani 2014.

dearest,

why do we go all around
the world and places like it?

why do you want to take me where you’ve been?

~

what makes you whole
makes me whole, too

the feeling you seek,
is my life

 

how long will we flit,
two bees on the same flower
returning home to tell stories
of the most beautiful thing?

 

what you love, is what i love too,
though i am not your bee

you needn’t see with my eyes,
you needn’t feel with my heart

to know how hundreds of fields
become one

no longer (2014)

who can say what should be done?

~

no longer can i breathe without running,
no longer can i eat before moving,
no longer can i speak before listening

no longer can i do
before asking,

what if,
what if all i am furthering
is irrelevance?

~

have you come here to sit,
or have you come to work hard,
so that you may make something
from nothing at all?

~

play without work
makes only a stomach ache

and love without change,
a costly, boring painting!

i care not for the pleasures
unless
you first give me of pain.

the frame (2014)

i would love to be in your movie

see how you frame those in love?

their breath, crisp on water wings
their abode, all of nature’s backdrop
every celestial body shaamil in their moment

would that i could be the one in the frame,
the one in the midst of it all

~

their love through the lens,
the viewer twice-removed

you are her, the beloved in the frame,
says the one farther removed than i

 

the friend (2014)

the signs of maturity within us say:

o dear heart, the friend will come again tomorrow

 

the friend lays beside, though he may rest elsewhere;
the friend knows you by your eye

the friend loves you more than you can know,
in dimension after dimension untold

~

look with a different eye
and you will see him holding you together from within

look with a different eye
that you may know him even after he departs forever from sight

~

o my love:

you are my footing, my keystone,
my place of rest,

my pilgrimage, my refuge, my harbour,
my nest.

 

she was beautiful (2014)

The inner became the surface, and she was transformed. © Saara Punjani 2014.
The inner became the surface, and she was transformed. © Saara Punjani 2014.

she became beautiful in love

 

her face, a lantern, her skin the translucent paper
her lips, they flamed and they were alive

what i saw on her, was what was in her;
the inner became the surface, and she was transformed

 

she became no more desirable than before,
but there was something

her shoulders were relaxed; her spine too
her breath was steady

 

she was beautiful.

you are home (2014)

dearest,

it’s okay to be the one that loves more

to be the one that speaks less

to be the one that reaches out for a strong hand

isn’t it wonderful
that you can be so in need?

isn’t it wonderful
that you can feel so in need?

my dearest, dearest, heart:

it’s okay to put the self to rest
and to yield to your need
for the beloved

~

i close my eyes and
my forehead is so naturally drawn
downward, to rest at your feet

i cannot do other than bow

this is where i am
and this is where i belong

something in me knows
you
are home.