Moniza Alvi

Country: Pakistan UK
Language(s): English
The Dead Man’s Pain


I hear planets on the march breathing inside me,
in the depth of my heart– which I fear is eternal.
I am lost amongst the stars’ footsteps and ruins,
carried into an abyss that eats up the sky.
I’ve come from Earth with my human baggage–
my panicky hopes and sudden memories.
when my heart still thrashes about as if it lives
under the sun, and doesn’t know how to die?
I gaze around this impossible region– there’s
near and far, but no riverbanks or shorelines.
I’m a blind man, with no stick, strength or faith,
looking for a body– the one I used to have.
I have so much to protect from hungry space–
the memories that loiter around my house,
along with all the loved faces.
And that poor thing reason– I once overlooked
myself with it, as if from a high balcony.
I wish I could save that one dubious treasure,
as a wild-haired dog in the spume,
holds a half-drowned puppy in its mouth.
Now the foam of the abyss rolls toward me,
             my universe sighs cruelly,
and the sky is a deep gorge rising, rising.
Everything here rejects me, even dream itself.
What can I expect from this landless land?


Even in death I’m plagued by insomnia.
I want to stop eternity and rescue a little
             Piece of the present.
I’m far too new to be admitted to the void.
I sing out of tune wherever there’s harmony.
How can I give up memory?
My mind invisibly cluttered, I’m busier
now I’m dead than when I was travelling.
I’m floating on death rather than sinking into it.
The coffin which contained me underground
couldn’t shut the sky out of the cemetery.
This world has made a wide raft for me–
my soul comes and goes on it, but can’t
             keep its balance.
Everything rises again– like a tombstone?
A mere glance frees a hundred doves.
For anyone who possesses nothing
but a wooden coffin,
what could be lovelier than the trees?



The Child and the Stairs

I hear you running up and down the stairs,
but the minute I grab hold of the banister
you turn your face the other way.
Surely, you’re my childhood, visiting
      a favourite place,
and hiding awkwardly from me?
I was once a tenant in your house.
Now I know you from your invisibility.
You prowl around me when no one’s looking,
and hurry away, as from an illicit meeting.
Well, I won’t admit I’ve recognised you.
But you must also keep our secret,
this constant rumour of my early footsteps
on the present-day stairs.