Poems by Alamgir Hashmi

“The Cesspool”
            By Alamgir Hashmi

On the last rung
of the ladder
the rust is flaking off.
Everything, it seems,
is scared of what lies below.

I drag my eyes away
to concentrate
on ordinary objects:
a green and white flag
fluttering weakly on a bamboo,
a tangle of multicolour kites,
and clouds hobbling along
like old women in warm, grey shawls.

Breakfast is laid.
Teeth dug into half-boiled eggs
reflect the yellow stuff.
I cannot eat.
The gelatinous white
brings the gutter to mind.

Why am I afraid
of these vibrations
that suck me under?
A poem is not a lotus;
it will grow in a cesspool.

Copyright© Alamgir Hashmi, from My Second in Kentucky: Poems by Alamgir Hashmi (Lahore & London: Vision Press, 1981). All Rights Reserved.

“The Earth is Greening Again?”
            By Alamgir Hashmi

The earth is greening again?
Fresh salad days ahead,
as I reckon the date
on the kitchen-calendar:
October 18. Good, good.

The season must turn
and match the time in my mind.
It’s 18th March,
the earth’s greening again.
Fresh salad days ahead,

as I recall the past meatless
winter I spent here
chewing mouldy phrases,
grazing the German cauliflowers
in every forbidden field.

But Winterthur has a monopoly
on the summer; wears
it like a bra
of light blue silk,
with which you must not

trust me.
It can rain for ever
while you do-not-trust-me
with it.
Could I care less

for the necessities of time?
Raleigh assured his countrymen
how he could feel the heat
of the moon in Guiana.
Bad weather may have founded

empires, but the rainmaker in Kansas
sports a cloud on
his magic string,
like a long-tailed Indian kite,
pink and black,

whose colour is a bedsheet
I could use the next winter long.
It’s the wrong time, though.
It’s got to be 18th October.
I already see

late November through it,
as through a deep blue bra
of European silk (made in Weisslingen,
St. Gallen, or Hong Kong).
There! The ski-lifts

holding people down
like so many bluejeans on a washing line.

Copyright© Alamgir Hashmi, from This Time in Lahore: New Poems by Alamgir Hashmi (Lahore & London: Vision Press, 1983). All Rights Reserved.

“The Woman at Lahore G. P. O.”
            By Alamgir Hashmi

His long scrawl in black—
­now he circles, now he draws
a crooked line, a horseshoe
language that he writes.
God, is there no way
to talk straight to people?

I am the third. Two others
will have to be written for
first; the one at front is
already pouring forth,
and he writes her letter
ready for post before she
has finished. They rage in their
passion, they whisper
and wail in loss. He calmly
sharpens his pencil meantime.
I wonder if that is all
they learn at school.

My husband is away and I
am lonely, but other women have
just said it—and every time he
has nodded his head.
He’s all eyes and no heart.
What will he put in that letter?
I cannot say it;
he does not understand.

I’d rather go home
and cook the carrots for dinner.

Copyright© Alamgir Hashmi, from Neither This Time / Nor That Place by Alamgir Hashmi (Lahore & London: Vision Press, 1984). All Rights Reserved.

- Alamgir Hashmi is the author of numerous books of poetry and literary criticism. His poetry and prose have also appeared widely in journals and in recent anthologies like Battle Runes (Bibliotekos, 2011) and No, Achilles (WaterWood, 2015-16). He has taught as a university professor in North America, Europe, and Asia.