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

taking in small sips all the time

Oil lamps. Image source: http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/lifestyle/this-holiday-season-bring-an-oil-lamp-into-your-home/
Oil lamps. Image source: http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/lifestyle/this-holiday-season-bring-an-oil-lamp-into-your-home/

~

This piece was inspired after attending a musical performance.

~

taking in small sips all the time

most days we trudge along, faces sunken,
the light behind our eyes, unlit

and then what comes along on the wings of a sweet melody
but the calling of something with which to cure our extinguishment

we strap ourselves in for the ride

what a thing it is to simply sit and be taken
to a place that exists only once in a while

~

fully saturated however,
we take up where we left off,
heavy and hardened, in pain

we were so close to becoming beautiful
but we surpassed ourselves in our glut

~

there can be a such thing as too much
heaven, too much light;
the flame rapidly fuelled is quick to die away

to stay free we must bend and turn,
dust off our delicate soul-wings,
and sleep;
eat only a little of the light,
and drink what has been given,
taking in small sips all the time.

 

dissolving further all the time (2014)

Somewhere along Balmy Beach, Toronto, ON.  © Saara Punjani 2013.
Somewhere along Balmy Beach, Toronto, ON.
© Saara Punjani 2013.

each time we turned
to rise above this illusion of the finite,
we were met with a ceiling – not yet, not yet

we made steady ablutions
and we kept a hopeful heart
and still, we were not crowned to go on

~

a kite without a string
would be blown every which way on the ground;

a kite with a string
rises high in finite direction

yet, without the string
we could not have come
as far as we already have

how far must we rise before the string can be cut;
before we are unbound from the direction of our path?

how far must we rise before we are taken into the skies,
mere specks, dissolving further all the time?

~

on this day, listen, to the quiet,
as clearly, some things are being said

whether we move,
upward,
inward,
outward or forward,
we cannot begin to say

the tides pull us away,
that we forget you;

the tides push us so far
that we fall right in

here we have always been, unmoving in the movement,
immersed in the truth of your most impressive signs

let us dig deeper, look farther, stay awake longer;
let us continue searching for you

let us be so obviously engrossed,
mere specks, dissolving further all the time

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

~