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January 28, 2002 Issue

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  • Books & the Arts

  • 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 nights of wine--
    But Time has shelved them now in Memory's dimmed places.

    She has left forever, let blood flow from my eyes
    till my eyes are lamps lit for love's darkest places.

    All is his--Sleep, Peace, Night--when on his arm your hair
    shines to make him the god whom nothing effaces.

    With wine, the palm's lines, believe me, rush to Life's stream--
    Look, here's my hand, and here the red glass it raises.

    See me! Beaten by sorrow, man is numbed to pain.
    Grief has become the pain only pain erases.

    World, should Ghalib keep weeping you will see a flood
    drown your terraced cities, your marble palaces.

    Agha Shahid Ali
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