City Faith – Agha Shahid Ali’s Poetry, Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
Qawwali at Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia’s Dargah.
[Poem by Agha Shahid Ali; photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Between two saints, he shares the
earth, Mohommad Shah “Rangeele,”
(evoked in Paluskar’s khayal)
The beggar-woman kisses the marble
lattice, sobs on Khusro’s pillars.
In a corner, Jahanara, garbed in
the fakir’s grass, mumbles a Sufi quatrain.
We recline on the grave-stone,
or on the saint’s poem, unaware
of the sorrow of the pulverized prayer.
Time has only its vagrant finger:
Knowing no equal, it paused for massacres.
Suffering still has its familiar patterns:
We buy flowers for Nizammudin’s feet,
dream in the corner to the qawwal’s beat.
The saint’s song chokes in his throat.
The poor tie prayers with threads,
accustomed to their ancient wish
for the milk and honey of Paradise.
I’ve learnt some lessons the easy way:
I’ve seen so many, even a child somewhere,
his infant bones hidden forever.
Stone, grass, children turned old:
The dead have no ghosts.
These are time’s relics, its suffered epitaphs:
I come here to sing Khusro’s songs.
I burn to the end of the lit essence
as kings and beggars arise in the smoke:
That drunk debauched colourful king
dances again with hoofs of sorrow
as Nadir skins the air with swords,
to the rhythm
of a dying
The muezzin interrupts the dawn, calls
the faithful to prayer with a monster-cry:
We walk through streets calligraphed with blood.
(Born in Delhi, Agha Shahid Ali was a Kashmiri-American poet)
One night at Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah