India: a Poem by Rehan Qayoom

Foqia Zafar

Foqia Zafar


"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
            But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration."
- T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

"From now on the land
Will have to manage without him.
But it hesitates, in this slow realisation of light,
Childlike, too naked in a frail sun,
With roots cut
And a great blank in its memory."
- Ted Hughes, The Day He Died

To begin with the nature of time with all its painful clichés, imaging itself, refusing to let go and leave. Time meant nothing where she was concerned, slippery time, soppy time, real time.
           The freedom to truly love requires great reserves of character and intelligence enough to refuse to accept the truth that all of this will not give him all of her and all of her he shall not want.

To return to love
To want to
Turn to you
To desire, peace, passion
To turn to life
To return to you

To be
In love, is often
To be the love
I want
To be…lieve
In love
How do you know these things? "I am with you" –
Ach, du.
I love you angry, I love you dark dark dark
My doe-eyed darkling
Secretamente, entre la sombre y el alma.
There was a little bird once … flitted a-way
You might know her too, she is oft-returning
She comes corrected, comes alive in colours:
As in the email she tapped out on her laptop what half an hour ago
To say goodbye
Because she says her hastío forcejea con los lentos crepúsculos...
To want more from life
To document it from a distance
From foreign lands too good for anything other
Than a craving in the weather of her love
The love that gave heady wine
To everyone she knew
Secretamente, entre la sombre y el alma.
Came to everyone who said they missed her
Soaked in Dior – Told them (quoting Eliot):

           'That is not what I meant at all.
           That is not it at all.’

Warning of those who ended up losing everything because they'd asked for more
Because it was too much, because
"I push you away
Because you'll go anyway"
Because it was just a world of virtualities where nothing was haptic
Such friendly aggression, such glossolalia

Is she? Will there?
Can I still write? Why do I?
We'll not laugh
Longer together
Not never
Remain unsaid, obfuscated
Ah, coffee! The communicotine and lucidity
That we'd meant to go out for, remember
When you bought one for that French lady who smelt costus
The third beside
(The occupassional hazard I thought looked like a Betjemanian business woman)
And your shoes kept mutinously dropping off behind you

I sat opposite as you tried to bluff your way in wine and body language
While engaging in apodyopsis
Went before you when you bought the book on economics our Eng Lit does not see eye to
                                                                                                                                   eye with
It's Borders, no longer a haunt of muses
Sullen-rendered by commercial capital of profit and loss

There are no consistent facts to this conflictive love
It had no beginning and knows no end
With a chameleon soul. No moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality.
She is unknowable
But the contours of her mirrors are familiar to me now
And I am most familiar to myself
When reflected through them
But perhaps only in this indecisive absence
With hindsight and soft focus recollections
The turbulence, the turmoil, the unpredictability of her sea presence
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
O bag of emotions

"America thrills me!"
It was where she spent all those years chasing shadows
Dreams, butterflies
Other people's lives
Her Persian mother implanted in her a duty to believe
She was born to be somebody else's girlfriend
To be loved as a substitute to the absent one
The third beside

Her London life was where she played her clavicula clarinet, wore Chloé perfume
Collected a gallery of plectrums, picture porpoises
Lied about her past (or was said to)
She moved with the music
An intellectual sponge she was unashamedly sexual (liked to recite Shakespeare while
                                                                                                                           making love)
With an obsession for sage and maquillage
And writers: she knew lots of writers (some famous)
None of whom, strangely enough, seemed to know each other
In any room she passed though, all the men knew her (or so it seemed)
Flocked to her enchanted, bewitched into feeling they‟d been brought back to life

When their eyes were dazzled
They fell giddy from her wily smiles, dirty and bookish
Suddenly she was the climax of their whole lives
Suddenly she could see their futures and was helpless to warn the wretches
She easily becomes a part of everyone she ever meets
A knife that cuts going in and cuts coming out

What passed
Just won't be gone
The next best thing
Was bound from the outside, from the outset
Senti-mentally - To be love
Rewired, glued, stitched
Its skittish sensitivity too tangible
To the empathic caress
For heart to precedent hope


Rehan Qayoom is a poet of English and Urdu, editor, translator and archivist, educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work internationally.  He lives in London.