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About this poet

Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi on February 4, 1949. He grew up Muslim in Kashmir, and was later educated at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, and University of Delhi. He earned a Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1984, and an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona in 1985.

His volumes of poetry include Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals (W.W. Norton & Co., 2003), Rooms Are Never Finished (2001), The Country Without a Post Office (1997), The Beloved Witness: Selected Poems (1992), A Nostalgist's Map of America (1991), A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (1987), The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987), In Memory of Begum Akhtar and Other Poems (1979), and Bone Sculpture (1972). He is also the author of T. S. Eliot as Editor (1986), translator of The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1992), and editor of Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (2000).

Ali received fellowships from The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and was awarded a Pushcart Prize. He held teaching positions at the University of Delhi, Penn State, SUNY Binghamton, Princeton University, Hamilton College, Baruch College, University of Utah, and Warren Wilson College. Agha Shahid Ali died on December 8, 2001.

Even the Rain

Agha Shahid Ali, 1949 - 2001
What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief's lottery, bought even the rain.

"our glosses / wanting in this world" "Can you remember?"
Anyone! "when we thought / the poets taught" even the rain?

After we died--That was it!--God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.

Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you'd poured--what?--even the rain.

Of this pear-shaped orange's perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.

How did the Enemy love you--with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.

This is God's site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?

After the bones--those flowers--this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.

What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.

How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames--
to help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.

He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves,
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.

New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me--
to make this claim Memory's brought even the rain.

They've found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.

From Call Me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

From Call Me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Agha Shahid Ali

Agha Shahid Ali

Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi on February 4, 1949.

by this poet

poem
By dark the world is once again intact,
Or so the mirrors, wiped clean, try to reason. . .
                                       --James Merrill
This dream of water--what does it harbor?
I see Argentina and Paraguay
under a curfew of glass, their colors
breaking, like oil. The
poem
First, grant me my sense of history:
I did it for posterity,
for kindergarten teachers
and a clear moral:
Little girls shouldn't wander off
in search of strange flowers,
and they mustn't speak to strangers.

And then grant me my generous sense of plot:
Couldn't I have gobbled her up
right there in the jungle?