Wednesday Poem

A Visit to Ballimaran
For Prashant Keshavmurthy

No longer that alleyway
of unending pastimes,
no longer that couplet
stalling a game of dice,
no longer that foot’s pause
driving a thought home,
no longer that inspiration
turning words into kites.

Ballimaran is a busy stream
of shoes hung for sale.

No sound of hoofs
or sight of palanquins
reigns over subjects.
The colour of footwear
automobile horns
mark the citizen’s health.

I ask a man, “Which way
to Ghalib’s home?”
His eyebrows arch, “Why didn’t
you ask him the address? A
name is not enough.”

I go my way, telling Ghalib’s
ghost, “Your name has lost its
address, your address
its neighbourhood. Is that how
one gains the world?”

The guard in blue uniform
is wearier than stone. He ushers
me inside the ancient
courtyard made up to date.

I stare at forgeries on stage
set to befool children. It isn’t easy
to veil someone’s neglected
absence.

The telephone booth is an offstage
parody of callers in prosaic
hurry. No one carves like old times a
turn of phrase to perfection.

I ponder. No one anymore counts
blessings with wine. No one
disobeys god with irony. No one braids
the night with couplets.

As light sinks a girl drifts in to read
the dilemmas of Ghalib’s heart. The azan
distracts her glued eyes. She
leaves folding a secret in her dupatta.

It is time to go home. Time to leave
what is left of Ghalib in
Qasim Jaan. To leave what is left
of Qasim Jaan in Ballimaran.

Names that belong to a different
time when the air breathed
verses. And a couplet weighed heavier
than a pair of shoes.

Manash Bhattacharjee
Delhi, 12/8/2012

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