M. Shahid Alam
Three Ghazals From Ghalib

Beauty And Truth Are Kin

The King has opened his doors–and purse–to poetry.
Lord, do not close again the doors of this treasury.

When night draws her curtain, a thousand stars descend:
Dignified like priests who–for us–make amends.

If I am crazed by love, shall I be duped by friends?
I know their plotting starts before their greeting ends.

Her words are Greek to me, her mind is a mystery.
She has opened up to me: and that’s enough for me.

I have immortal longings–since beauty and truth are kin.
The angels gather at my death to wash away my sins.

Although I cannot see her face–she mesmerizes me.
Filtering through the veil, her beauty staggers me.

‘Camp at my door’, she said, but then–from pity or fear–
She threw me out speedily, as I unpacked my gear.

The night of grief is dark as evil spirits descend.
The stars look the other way until their caucus ends.

Ghalib, why should I worry? A Prince looks after me,
One who entered Heaven’s dome without ceremony.


Stringing Pearls in Her Hair

Tonight, the fire in my heart’s bright center rises
Skyward, searing moths–even angels–to ashes.

The rain–there–hinders my lady’s promenade.
A flood of tears–here–has drowned my serenade.

She can be seen–there–stringing pearls in her hair.
Here–I try but cannot stanch my never-ending tears.

Red roses–there–cast their petals on the waters.
Here–I scatter ruby tears, cheaper than rosewater.

Sleepless–here–I dash my head against the rocks.
Azure-lidded–there–she sleeps on minks and fox.

My breath flickers–here–in the dying candlelight.
She treads on roses–there–courted by bright knights.

There–color strives with color to brighten her day.
Here–night follows night, with intervening gray.

Suddenly, my tears–in flood–overflow my cup.
I don’t know how I had kept them bottled up.


It Wasn’t A Bad Life

My strength fails–my sighs lack power tonight.
I camp at her door, blessing her suitors tonight.

The waters rush past the rafters in my house.
Their gentle melody tempers my rage tonight.

I have been homeless before–it wasn’t a bad life.
It was worry-free, woman-free, and peace all night.

Blinded by cravings, it was I who would not see.
His light shone brightly–night after night.

Why don’t you care for your bondsmen today?
But yesterday their sighs kept you up all night.

It wasn’t long ago when you, afraid of losing us,
Tore off your veils till your beauty shone all night.

Had I not stopped Ghalib–he was so distraught–
He would have ranted and raised hell all night.