A Ghazal from Ghalib

translated by M. Shahid Alam

Chughtai painting

نقش فریادی ہے کس کی شوخیِ تحریر کا
کاغذی ہے پیرہن ہر پیکرِ تصویر کا

Where is the Artist whose art they protest? Every
prop, every player, dreads his part in the play.

Hard, it is hard, digging through granite nights.
It takes a thousand sparks to break into day.

The heat is intense when lovers pine for death.
When she lifts her sword, the edge strips away.

Go, weave your snares with logic and design.
The arc of my flight will take your breath away.

The irons on my legs are like braids over fire.
Ghalib, I walk on cinders to pass my prison days.

–first published in Chicago Review, Summer 2003.