“EXILE IS AN IMPERATIVE” by Ramsha Ashraf

On a glamorous rainy day, a man was shot dead,

in front of a foreign policeman’s local house,

the bullet left a tiny rabbit–hole in the forehead

providing a perfect sight for ghost-story-writers.

 

 

It affected nothing; no one had known the man,

people forgot, most did it in a few hours, but

a few took their time through the blue of days:

alarm for collective pain did not resonate.

 

Guns had taken over, schools were shut down,

food went missing and it wasn’t required as well

in any way the dead needed coffins not edibles.

Life is a comic series of errors; exile being one.

 

Exile is an imperative, fear made them realize.

Blood, bread and dead, a perfect theatricality

and a good cathartic way of pitying others,

not themselves, ones suffering from amnesia.

 

 

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Madison Street

After when the old night wraps

and cuddle the tired spring-day

in its arms. People leave

the Madison street for the Downtown weekend charm.

Its loneliness made me lost my way, twice.

I mistook Jefferson for Madison,

walked and walked

until the darkness hit my eyes.

Upon my asking the black boy

who works on the gas-station guided

the way back, dismantling my almost

white-supremacist-belief about blacks

and them being indecent and insensitive.

After getting slapped satisfactorily,

when I stepped on the Madison street,

I thought of you and your aloofness,

however, I knew the thought would die

after I enter my room and insert

‘faith-is-dead 417’ using the keyboard.

 

 

Street Shame by Ramsha Ashraf

When the nights get too dark, too grotesque and too blurry to show the light of stars, which in fact, even in bearable times, keep smiling at the ordinariness of the earthlings, you try to forget whatever little you know.

Stench of the garbage,
It was born into,
Is enough to suffocate it.
The body is rotten,
To the core of its existence,
But the pretense exists
For the fear of being found out
Is too strong to shed the shell off.

The shame of the street,
That stinks of unprotected gutters,
naked, malnourished, and fearless children playing with nothing but pebbles,

The anxiety of being singled out,
And above all,
The horror of denying
What was expressed as its impression
Of defiance and rebellion,
What was mistook as its pride
In blood and belonging,

All is a burden for it to breathe…

It bleeds… It still bleeds…

It is not a human anymore

But cannot let the shame fall off its shoulders.

“Walking Around” by Pablo Neruda

Translated from Spanish by John Felstiner

 

 

It so happens I’m tired of being a man.

It happens I go into tailor shops and movies

shriveled up, impervious, like a felt-stuffed swan

steering through waters of origin and ash.

The smell of barbershops makes me break out sobbing.

All I want is the quiet of stones or wool,

all I want is to see no stores or gardens,

or merchandise or eyeglasses or elevators.

It happens I’m sick of my feet and fingernails

and my hair and my shadow.

It so happens I’m tired of being a man.

Still it would be a treat

to panic a notary with a cut lily

or do in a nun with one smack of an ear.

It would be sweet

to run through the streets with a green knife

screaming till I died of cold.

I just can’t go on as a root in the dark,

swaying, stretching, shivering with sleep,

downward in the sodden guts of the earth,

musing and steeping, every day eating.

I don’t want so much misery for me.

I can’t go on being root and tomb,

lonely cellar, warehouse of frozen

stiffs, croaking from grief.

That’s why Monday flares up like petrol

when it sees me coming with my jailhouse mug,

and howls like a wounded wheel as it rides by,

making hot bloody tracks toward night.

And shoves me to certain corners, certain dank houses,

hospitals with bones sailing out the window,

to certain shoe stores reeking of vinegar,

streets as frightful as gullies.

There are sulfur-tinged birds and hideous intestines

hanging from the doors of houses I hate,

there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,

here are mirrors

that must have wept for shame and horror,

umbrellas everywhere, poisons, and navels.

I’m walking around with calm, eyes, shoes,

rage and forgetfulness,

I walk along, skirting offices and orthopedic shops,

and backyards with clothing hung from a wire:

underpants, towels, and shirts that weep

slow dirty tears.

Federico Garcia Lorca presenting Pablo Neruda: Madrid, December 1934

“I say you are about to hear an authentic poet, one who has forged himself in a world that’s not ours, that few people perceive. A poet closer to death than philosophy, to pain than intellect, to blood than ink. A poet filled with mysterious voices that luckily he himself doesn’t know the meaning of. A true man who does know that the reed and the swallow are more permanent than the hard cheek on a statue…He stands up to the world, full of honest terror, and lacks two things so many false poets have lived with?hate and irony. When he’s about to condemn and raises his sword, suddenly he finds himself with a wounded dove between his fingers.”

pb 1
Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda in Stockholm with his wife Matilda after he received the Nobel Prize for literature.