Naishapur and Babylon

By Keki N. Daruwalla

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I am not sure what reverberates across continents
or those hairline borders pocked with dugouts
where we string barbed wire and put up sentry posts.
I know earthquakes vibrate and reverberate
and how(!), across line and street and I know
how tramlines warp and walls bend at the ankle.
If you are deaf to sounds and boasts
and advertising and have kept your voice low
through a lifetime, sounds turn interior,
and you hear all the while in your old age
the muted trumpet of your ego.


Throughout my dreams
I am at different places,
seldom at home; but often
even when the place is strange
I think it is home.
Time and place get mingled—
the year may be a stranger
but I feel that we have met.
Then time switches on its
soul-conditioning plant
and I feel the draft;
it switches on its shadow-light,
I don’t spot the borderline
between eras, yet I can sense
the rain of the past drumming
on the roof-tiles of the present.


He Is Not Aware

he is not aware
of the distance
between here and there
the sky means nothing to him, nor
the planet smouldering away each year.
his world is here
day stares at him like a slab
noon pours red coals on his sweat-pimpled body
night broods over him
he is grateful for his dreams’ desertion
he sleeps like leaves on a sour pond.
time means little to him
hunger is his clock
he knows noon and nightfall through it.
he has moved from the wilderness of drought
and its stubble and his village thatch
to arid suburbs, feeding brick kilns,
and then to concrete mixers
and the city wilderness—
but he doesn’t see it as wilderness.
he is not aware
there is not much distance
between here and there.


She Came

She came
and his pulse quickened.
As on cue
the drizzle-wet breeze
came in through
the window
bringing with it
the rinsed blue
of the rain-washed skies.
She left
and the colour went out of his eyes.

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