Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ghazal -- Leaving Your City

I wrote this more than ten days ago and intended to post it up, but an argument I had about it left me in two minds. I am not, categorically, a fan of form, scansion, or poetic discipline of any sort, with the exception perhaps of the haiku, which I love for its succinctness and uncomplicated potency. I admire the supremacy of others over disciplined verse, and acknowledge that my strengths are elsewhere. But I challenge myself from time to time, test myself with limits. This was one such exercise. The argument was as much about the use of rhyme and refrain as it was about the content -- and at the end of it, I could not look at this ghazal at all, because I bristled with the personal slight much more than the poetic. There is nothing that isn't melodramatic about why I am leaving Malaysia or how. Being interrogated is dramatic. Seventeen years and officially a tourist is a failure of administrative politics. After a raging argument about race, nationality, excessive drama queen quotients and assholic insensitivities, it was revealed: the other person didn't know what a ghazal actually is. But somehow, the wounding from realising he also didn't know me means that I post it up for you now not having reread it.


I augur these nights for stars that cannot be seen in the sky of your city
I wake counting the dawns that trickle to the day, I'm leaving your city.

My hunted heart consumed by an undertow of longing for a landscape
not a cremation ground for all the dreams I lay to waste, believing your city.

Sod your government and its godless lies, there is history here in the
smoke the coke the mirrors, the golden waltzes still conceiving your city.

Don't call me citizen. Don't call this home. Exile is the only song I've ever
known. Let me go now, I'm tired of believing, deceiving your city.

Remember me in demarcations, remember me radiant, searing. Glimmering
in borders, partitions, trespasses, my sweet broken heart cleaving your city.

My earthen body electric, receptacle, bewildering in its need –
I walk these streets now, open, receiving your city.

For tonight I'm here, dreaming of and drinking in the heat, the beat
and all the pretty skyscraper lights and darknesses weaving your city.

But how I've been betrayed and I don't intend to forget the bitterness,
the spilled blood and the black chimes of bigotry sieving your city.

My time here has come and gone. I take with me now these torrents of memory.
While you search for stars you cannot see, I'll be retrieving your city.

Sharanya says, this is all you need know: on the day I leave I will wake
here, and close my eyes to sleep in another nation, grieving your city.

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Anonymous Akhir said...

This is a difficult form you know, and I think you have done very well... You may not "feel" for it. But it lays very well wth the big themes of your art

5:44 PM  
Blogger Obiter Dictum said...

actually well done. yiu have maneged to evoke a little bit of Mir here. His verse bristled. Not as much as yours does, perhaos you remind of Daag.

Dil ke phapola jal uthe seene ke daag se / Is ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar ke chirag se.

But Sahir would be more like, more in your face-ish. He wrote nazams mostly not ghazals.

Go in peace, "forgiving the city."

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anindita said...

I've been a silent visitor before but this one demands a comment. Beautiful.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Sharanya Manivannan said...

Akhir -- Thank you. You're right about the big themes. I am still working out the subjective narrative thread vs. stand-alone qualities of individual work, and when to value one over the other.

Obiter Dictum -- Definitely. KL is forgiven. Malaysia is not. That's one of the saddest things about it all for me -- that I love that city, love it completely, but the nation within which it is situated is so politically tense that I had no choice but to leave before I was made to.

Anindita -- Thank you, and welcome. :)

5:27 PM  
Blogger Vidya said...

Lovely lines. There is a certain stream of conciousness in effect in this that appeals.

9:27 PM  

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