Scenes in a Secret Room

by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi

handwritten Urdu text by the author, early 1980's: *page 1*; *page 2*

A face not yet fully a face
no white or black, no name, features, form
Wait--just grab it, won't you?--a hundred pieces
a hundred colors, a mercury mirror--
Give it a shape, won't you?

Brown dusty stretch of the harsh wilderness
a hot frightened breathless railroad
a gasping rushing sudden horde of cars
dust enchains them--but they never stop
a gust of sound echoes

A field, screaming snowy birds
A hand, two hands higher, white leaps in the green
(on the lawn small notebook pages fly)
in it all, a pair of redbirds, sooty red
rose-bright, heads lifted, serious
silent, brooding:
"We're beyond desire, for us
flying and staying are a single image
in one uncolored mirror."

Red, imperious, forceful
riding the mountains' twisted backs
a stubborn demon, wrathful eyes bulging
All at once the sky-flood
silent but inwardly boiling, fierce like a lord
rises, spreads--
the proud fire-fingered demon is no more
A red threshhold, dimming eyes.  Now a scene
of dark glory, fury, fear.®PG¯

A soft and gentle profile, like old marble
"When she's quiet, she's like a picture
when she speaks, her color changes."
Far off:  the well of the Underworld, water glistens like stars
Her laughter
milk and sugar
bright eyes
morning sun
sparkling flowers
the breeze
fountains splash on the lawn

In a closed room the roar of wild imaginings
Was that a knock?  How long till dawn?
Anyone there?
No one to speak to: "Come, let's go to bed now."

Wait--grab hold of the seven-layered glitter
of the hundred-colored mirror--
Slow it down as it shines.

[;xufiyah kamre me;N na:z::z:aarah]
translated by Frances W. Pritchett and the author

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