Intimations of Ghalib

translations by M. Shahid Alam


My absence was God:
His absence grows in me.
If I was not in play, how
Would that go for me?

I had nothing to lose
When she cut off my head.
It sat not on my torso: it lay
Dead upon my knee.

Dead all these years, Ghalib
Comes back to me. We
Talked of present misery:
He always, what might be.


He blanched, nearly died, at love’s first swagger.
This is love’s country, be brave, true and free.

Like slow arteries, time irrigates your flesh.
In this death-crafted life, we struggle to be free.

Catch this fever once, it stays with you for life.
The heart grows in pain till death sets you free.

My friends could not find a cure for my rage.
Lashed to the crucifix, I walk the desert free.

In death, Ghalib lay uncoffined, unwashed.
May God bless the man: he was singularly free.

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