Agha Shahid Ali

Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi on February 4, 1949. He grew up Muslim in Kashmir, and was later educated at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, and the University of Delhi. He earned a PhD in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1984, and an MFA from the University of Arizona in 1985. His volumes of poetry include Rooms Are Never Finished (W.W. Norton & Co., 2001), The Country Without a Post Office (1997), The Beloved Witness: Selected Poems (1992), A Nostalgist's Map of America (1991), A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (1987), The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987), In Memory of Begum Akhtar and Other Poems (1979), and Bone Sculpture (1972). He is also the author of T.S. Eliot as Editor (1986), translator of The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems, by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1992), and editor of Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (2000).

Not All, Only a Few Return Not All, Only a Few Return

(after Ghalib) Just a few return from dust, disguised as roses. What hopes the earth forever covers, what faces? I too could recall moonlit roofs, those nigh...

Jan 10, 2002 / Books & the Arts / Agha Shahid Ali

Forever Forever

for Donald Revell Even Death won't hide the poor fugitive forever; on Doomsday he will learn he must live forever. Is that nectar the cry of the desert prophets? See angels pour the Word through a sieve forever. On the gibbet Hallaj cried I Am the Truth. In this universe one dies a plaintive forever. When parents fall in love with those blond assassins, their children sign up for Western Civ forever. With a brief note he quit the Dead Letter Office-- O World, they've lost Bartleby's missive forever. Am I some Sinai, Moses, for lightning to char? See me solarized, in negative forever. In the heart's wild space lies the space of wilderness. What won't one lose, what home one won't give forever! A perfect stranger, he greeted herself in joy-- Not to be Tom, how lovely--she said--I'm Viv forever! Jamshed, inventor of wine, saw the world in his cup. Drink, cried his courtiers, for he won't live forever. He lives by his wits, wears blue all day, stars all night. Who would have guessed God would be a spiv forever? Will the Enemy smile as I pass him on the street? I'm still searching for someone to forgive forever. As landscapes rise like smoke from their eyes, the blind hear God swear by the fig and the olive forever. The Hangman washes his hands, puts his son to sleep. But for whom, come dawn, he's decisive forever? Alone in His Cave--His Dance done--He's smeared with ash. The Ganges flows from the head of Shiv forever. You've forgiven everyone, Shahid, even God-- Then how could someone like you not live forever?

Dec 20, 2001 / Books & the Arts / Agha Shahid Ali