by Huma Dar
And the night’s sun there in Srinagar? Guns shoot stars into the sky, the storm of constellations night after night, the infinite that rages on. It was Id-uz-Zuha: a record of God’s inability, for even He must melt sometimes, to let Ishmael be executed by the hand of his father. Srinagar was under curfew. The identity pass may or may not have helped in the crackdown. Son after son–never to return from the night of torture–was taken away.
… But the reports are true, and without song: mass rapes in the villages, towns left in cinders, neighborhoods torched. “Power is hideous / like a barber’s hands.” The rubble of downtown Srinagar stares at me from the Times.
… And that blesséd word with no meaning–who will utter it? What is it? Will the women pronounce it, as if scripturing the air, for the first time? Or the last?
… What is the blesséd word? Mandelstam gives no clue. One day the Kashmiris will pronounce that word truly for the first time. (Excerpt from Agha Shahid Ali’s “The Blesséd Word: A Prologue,” in The Country Without A Post Office, 1997: 16-17)