‘Displeasure of Old Friends’ and other poems

Literary Trails

Sarwat Hussain

Translated from Urdu by Riyaz Latif

Flower’s Narrative

just this I remember

_____ there was a flower with petals scarlet

that vanished cutting through a dust-filled ocean

oh! girl with beautiful eyes

_____ come closer,

that flower is ablaze in you —

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Phool ki Hikayat,” from Aadhe Sayyare Par in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 36.

Displeasure of Old Friends

the sun stared scathingly

_____ the leaves made ruckus

the breeze reached out and gathered up the brook’s ballads

stars growing in the greenery

_____ did not talk to me

I came back —

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Purane Dostoñ Ki Naaraazgi,” from Aadhe Sayyare Par in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 38.

On the Quarter-Fragment of the Century

on the quarter-fragment of the century; thousands of pouncing springing moons and suns, or just a day hot clamorous, forging its way through the cluster of prayers and girls…winds, verandahs and enclosures; civilization crawling in books beyond chapatis buttered with ghee

water’s life or water’s death; girls’ laughter white non-venomous as a water-snake…both the rudders saw the moon turn ruddy from the same ark, and inscribed the first graft on water…

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Sadi Ke Chauthai Tukde Par,” from Aadhe Sayyare Par in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 43.

 Blue Rain

blue rain in your eyes

_____ this vista as if

_____ I had seen it before

in the mirror’s heart or in the portal

_____ which opens into the netherworlds of black earth

netherworlds of black earth, our childhood

childhood and sparrows of paradise

everything is getting wet in the blue rain

with wet colors I make a portrait

_____ on your body

I, blue rain; you, black earth

your lips are ablaze

_____ as if flames

had begun to rage in the mirror of blue rain

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Neeli Baarish,” from Aadhe Sayyare Par in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 71.

I Wish To Die a Human Death

raising myself, I have come away from their midst; the fact is that my knowledge is awfully limited and idiomatic terms sow a dread in me; I do not know on which earthly terrain my city rests but I know a boy whose fingers embroider flowers on rugs and the fluffy wool flying from the rugs inscribes flowers on his lungs

my sorrows are quite ordinary; I am dejected for the infirm whose bullock-cart will not be able to reach the hospital’s entrance; I am sorrowful for the woman who sees this bullock-cart fading away into a distance; I am unhappy for the spade that is getting wet in the rains; I am crestfallen for the trunk of instruments which is my deceased father’s relic

they harass me for a few crumbs of bread and turn a father into a beast; transform a poet into raging fire….

I wish to die the death of a beast

I wish to die the death of a raging fire

I wish to die a human death

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Meiñ Ek Admi Ki Maut Marna Chahta Huñ,” from KhaakDan in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 202.

Dawn Descends Onto The City

dawn, clinking silver bells,

descends onto the city

from the curtain of the fountain

the dripping wet rider

sees

repeatedly

a yellow golden horizon

as if an angel

were scattering gold-leaves on earth

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Subh Utarti Hai Shehr Meiñ,” from KhaakDan in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 211.

Fire, Make Me Verdant

fire, make me verdant

in a mode

that the cedars of the forest forget their beauty

do not keep me mournful for long

on the breakfast table

put a glass of milk

Fire…

do not scald the baker’s hands

spread over the fields of tyrants

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Aag Mujh Ko Sabz Kar,” from KhaakDan in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 214.

The Flower of Presence

the flower of my presence has blossomed on water, empire    

of spring’s dawn calls out from intimate quarters

swift-paced wheels turning incessantly, woke up

from momentous dreams, the arc of the solar vestment caressing the walls

making love, dancing, ah! the sun has come out!

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Maujudgi Ka Phool,” from KhaakDan in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 242.

Eyes

when I first opened my eyes

I discovered two seeing eyes

heard a sweet word of love before the call to prayer

it was my mother’s voice

then I slipped into deep sleep

when I woke up, in front of me

were two beautiful eyes

unfathomable like sea

and greatly proximate like stars

I saw my face in those eyes

then those eyes faded away from me

I stepped out far in search of sustenance

and in mirrors, ponds, and rivers

kept on looking for those eyes that had been mislaid by me

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Aankheñ,” from Ek Katora Paani Ka in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 335.

She Stands There

_____ she stands there

her feet planted resolutely

on a high boulder

that only I can see

like a child, breath-abated…incessantly

how did she reach there

not a stone-edge, not a pebble, gave away from anywhere

on grass and wet earth there is no mark of her arrival

she must have landed from some other sphere

right on this boulder, gently, and with poise

like a hovering feather that spirals down onto water

soundless…serene

she will spring from there

someday she will spring from there

on an unsuspecting prey…

on a lilac star which she has singled out

on a beating heart which has been created for her

an eternal clamor or hush

_____ or some other sea in-between

and a wading lioness…

(Original Urdu Poem titled, “Wo Wahañ Khadi Hai,” from Ek Katora Paani Ka in Sarwat Hussain, Kulliyat (Karachi: Aaj ki Kitabeiñ, 2015), 345.

 



Sarwat Hussain (1949 – 1996) was born and brought up in Karachi. He taught Urdu literature at various government colleges. His control over Urdu language, as well as the modernity of his ideas, made him one of the most distinguished poets of his time.

Two collections of his work have been published so far, Aadhe Sayyare Par (1987) and Khakdaan which was published posthumously after his tragic death in a train accident




Riyaz Latif is a Urdu poet and Riyaz Latif  holds a doctoral degree in art history with a primary concentration on premodern Maghrib (North Africa), and the Mediterranean basin. After a postdoctoral fellowship with the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the MIT, he taught at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, USA. After his return to India in the summer of 2017. He is currently Associate Professor of Art History at FLAME University, Pune, India.

He emerged as a noteworthy voice in Urdu poetry during the last decade of the twentieth century, and his poems have been published in reputed Urdu literary journals of India & Pakistan. Along with two collections of Urdu poetry, Hindasa Be-Khwaab Raton Ka (2006) and ‘Adam Taraash (2016), as well as a book of translations into Urdu from European poetry, titled Mera Khoya Awazah (2014), he has published a number of articles, and has translated Urdu poetry and prose into English, most of which can be found in the Annual of Urdu Studies. His works in progress – academic essays, personal reflections, poems, translations – center on composite dimensions of literature and culture, as well as art and architectural history. His book manuscript, titled Ornate Visions of Knowledge and Power: the Formation of Marinid Madrasas in Maghrib al-Aqsa, is under review for publication.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*