How to read a Poem

you read,
head inclined,
like a heliotropic sunflower bud,
closed lips moving as softly as
new born butterfly wings,
light and air rearranging themselves
into a radiant stage for your thoughts,
does that poem, that tongue-tied page,
don a damask gown and ballerina shoes,
declaiming slowly, animated and free,

or do you imagine yourself reading aloud,
covered in the russet tears of weeping chinars,
one outstretched limb at an incongruous angle
to the listening sky,
perhaps there are characters,
like you, like me,
strange faces with familiar eyes,
whose lips do you see,
whose voice do you hear,
laughing, despairing, in love,
is that Faiz walking out through the mist,
or Hafiz, the beloved’s wine still purple wet on his lips,
or the unparalleled Noor Jahan
wooing Jahangir in her Sheesh Mahal,
her hennaed hands the colour
of Agra’s sandstone fort;

you hold your breath,
between the lines, beside the words,
like a raindrop that pauses midstream
to adore the ground that will
break his heart,
like the shore that listens alone
for a single wave,
that never returns,
that never departs,

you hear,
you see,
and everything i ever felt,
everything we ever were,
free-falling through speechless time,
converges at the tip of your forefinger,
waiting for the rain to stop, for the waves to end,
for the music to die, for the curtains to fall,
for the sound, the colours, the henna to fade,
before you turn the page.


Your poems about
Rumi and Hafiz,
torment me,
terrify me.
Did they tell you
my secrets from last night
when they cried with me
into my pillow?

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