Seven is a lost number: Poems by Arif Ayaz Parrey

© Showkat Nanda / Boys on Run

A conversation with my mother on one of the last days of Ramazan

Don’t think about the war, pleads my mother
her quivering voice a willow twig in August
and mid-summer drizzle hanging in her eyes
Don’t think of the still-bleeding throat of the carpenter
whose headless body left the first floor of our home
without doors and windows for twenty years
Don’t think of the CRPF men who had shone a torch
and torn him apart from the night of his wife

Don’t recall the time when your father was taken
to the village stream along with other men
dipped in the water, then dried with sticks
and simmering words, the therapy repeated
till the last traces of self-respect were rinsed out
their skin tanned permanently to humiliation

Don’t speak of the unspeakable turns of phrase
which had undressed all the women of the village
in front of all the men and the beasts
Don’t think about the meaninglessness of dress
After such knowledge and shame of nakedness
Don’t compare it with democracy after genocide

Thoughts are very expensive, my dear
Kashmiris cannot afford them
So don’t think, my child, don’t think

Thus the twig kept shaking in the mid-summer drizzle
Her voice choked by helplessness
Then she asked if I remembered how the carpenter
used to bring coconut candy for me
and that my father wore a white kameezyazaar
on the day his skin was robbed of its colour

I’m her Cheshire cat, my smile the only thing
which exists in her world, she fears
when I go looking for the rest of me,
The head of the carpenter’s body
The doors and windows of my childhood
The colour of my father’s skin
Ignorance about the shape of the nipples
of the women of my village
lest they snatch even the smile from her.

The thirteenth colour of lock-up

A blind moon melts in my hands
like eyes that have embraced darkness
as a habit, are scattered by light and turned
to an infinite sand, barely visible, unseeing.

The days are my brittle body, the night
steel bars, they meet at a place full of pain.
On the horizon hangs the grey of roosting
and the crickets make a beret-green sound.
They are my only voice, my own sobs and wails
have long eloped with the torturers' laughter.

The beautiful purple gardens of clots
on my lips and penis are flowering, ripe
I dream of women, of redness dancing
in darkness, raising a maroon mayhem.

Ye shubbe

Aeshiq chuh karsaaz
Awwai cheh aalmas manz kein cheez yokvathai shubaan

Mashoqun tassavur te aashiqan hend alfaaz
Aftab te mael sund tanez karrun
Maaji hund buthis peth atheh fearun te Kosher shaiyri
Yemburzel te zooni pash
Gatte pash te garm vuthan henz badnas peth likhavat
Kong posh te khalaa
Badem fly te nuskhai-wafaa
Qolle manz gurrun te hamdardi
Waazwaan te phalsafaey-sifar
Thejqaad te Sheik-ul-Alamin shruk
Wanduk sheen, harduk mash te soantech aash

Tawwai cheh temsinz qabar temis tethi kein prarven
Yethken Zoon cheh Yusufas intizaaras
Yethken dehsaas maaji cheh pannen potran praraan
Yethken hardu te wande kev imtihaanav menz
Rattekoal chuh soantas naalmott karni safras naeran
Yeth ken lacchhe boed lukh, zinde, mordu te zennai
Che sadken peth thalle thalle azadi tsadaan
Qabar haeke waqtukh maar khe khe weas peth
Paan galle galle nabood gatshith
Zooni haeke gatte pashech nazr lagith
Moij te wassi wojood mushraveth bujrikis aagoshas manz

Magar Aeshiq chuh karsaaz
Su kar te ye shubaan chu

Translation by Gowhar Fazili:

Love creates history
Some things resist separation—
Thought of the beloved from the lover’s expression;
Sunshine and father's reprimand;
Mother's caress and the poetics of mother tongue;
Narcissus and moonlight;
Darkness and the caress of kisses;
Saffron and space;
Almond blooms and parchments of love;
Fish in a rivulet and compassion;
Wazwaan and aimless conversation;
Sowing season and Shek-ul Aalam’s verse;
Winter-snow, Autumn-honey and Spring-hope.

His empty grave longs for him
Zulaikha awaits Yusuf;
Ten thousand mothers await return of their sons;
Passing through tribulations of Autumn and Winter, Summer proceeds to embrace the Spring
Millions—living, dead and yet to be born populate the streets in longing for azaadi

Graves cave in under the stress of time
Selves fade away and perish
Darkness swallows the moon
Mother too will eventually lose her-self in the embrace of old age.

Meanwhile, lovers create history,
They do what must be done.


Your memory has three storeys.
On the ground floor I store
the embers of your smell
their faint lemony edges
like January evenings in Delhi
viewed through the prism of a tear.

On the middle floor I store silence
of skin diluted in sin
which moves like a river
once it has embraced the sea.
There is also a tiny windowless room
filled with your knives and spears.

On the top floor I store keys
of abandoned padlocks
disheveled hair, impossible eyes.
Words are engraved on the keys
adjectives, nouns, but mostly verbs
and the signs of darkness.

Autumn in Kashmir

Genocide comes wearing a yellow mask
She said, peeling a maroon laughter
But your skin is gold, my love, look
Pointing to the ripe paddy swaying in the field
This? This too shall burn, like oil over water
There is nowhere to hide, no masks to wear
The devil stole eyes from innocence
Now it can look God in the eye
Find us behind the seven veils of hoors
Let me wrap the evening sky around your breasts
Camouflage gold with gold
Did they fire pellets into your ears?
What colour does genocide prefer?
Then what do we do, cultivate oil off water?
Buy time by selling our children?
It is too late, my love, there is no time
Kiss me before the night overflows with blood
Let me cocoon you in my dress
Deepen the colour of my laughter

Light Facebook Years

Is anyone travelling to 2010 in the next few days?
I want to send a correction to a kiss to a now defunct love.
Is anyone going further, to 2006, before the week ends?
I have packed courage in a discarded geometry box.
Can you give it to my younger self to stop a marriage.

Is anyone travelling to the land of regret this month?
I have to send a few things, don’t worry I will not burden you
carry only what fits in your luggage neatly
the rest I will send through someone else.
It is a popular destination, I’m sure someone else will be travelling soon.

Is someone backpacking anytime soon to the first time I knew love?
Outside those I had been told to love. Can you?
Just a few things; light, but will occupy some space. Please.
There is a memory of giggling poplar leaves and tittering willow twigs.
Watching a blue and yellow frock sway in the breeze.
I will be there too, but I can rather meet you at the airport.
If you prefer. Look, I’m so thankful you are doing this.
Yes, it is urgent, the series of powers of two escalates fast.
And the silence after kisses quickly fills the universe.

Garr firdaus...

Spring is when hope grows new leaves, but here
they are crimson-red, the bloody stare of a half-widow
the mountains begin to miss their snow
like her daughter’s grin misses an incisor
How she wishes it was just a metaphor
for the Absent One, so that he could grow

back to a place where her kisses could reach him
The daughter only taps her thumb on the emptiness
wishing she could roll her tongue over the teeth smoothly
hope sails on the faint edges of her smile, afraid
that if it went deeper it might drown when
like a river suddenly remembering its history
memories flood the empty questions of stolen life
not very far from the daughter and the wife

spring songs of birds drown in hollows of military drums
Garr firdousba-roh-e-zameenast...if there is paradise
on earth, they say, it is this, and then repeat it twice
like Goebbels’ Truth, like Triple Talak, the device
a wish of genocide for them, for us History’s price
(An empty land for whoever comes on top of the dice)

Why does this land not spit festoons of zool
or hell? Why do the vanquished mountains
over whose backs poison hops into the country
not shake it off and stand tall? Why does not Shiva,
whose third eye is the valley, open it up
and reduce the world to ashes with its witness? Why
does not the zombie justice wake up and turn the wheel?
W’arsla alaihim toiran ababeel, tarmehim behijaratin min sijheel

Spring is when the earth, swelling with pride, turns
soft, vulnerable and therefore capable of great gluttony
It puts on the blossoms of a new mutiny
the derisive scent a decree for those who resist
an invitation to invaders, murderer and tourist
the loss is great, but not as great as the capacity

The boy who lost a kidney and an eye in 2010
to the benevolence of a State’s non-lethal weapon
hauls Naipaul’s pilgrims to Himalayan caves, they agree
in a foreign tongue, he looks like a pirate of Caribbean
But when his one good eye corners them in the mirror
the situation has improved considerably, they say
to diffuse the situation, blushing; well, you see,
I am the situation, he remarks without irony.

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