Image credit: Naoki Izumo, "Transition" (video still)

“No regresaré el polvo prestado…”
(Para Osip Mandelstam y Agha Shahid Ali)

En Lahore,
tras una tarde de monzón,
la oscuridad comenzó a cercar la luz.
Aparecieron renacuajos, sillas, bases de ventilador y una TV
en el jardín del abuelo Nana Farooq.

“Póngamos Amristar.” 

No había cables ni antenas parabólicas.
Pasábamos horas pegados a la imagen borrosa de India.

“Construyeron Pakistán en las estaciones de tren.
Distintos grifos para hindús y musulmanes,
que al separar marcaron su agua como
pani hindú, pani musulmana
te lo juro”
decía Nana Farooq.

Usman perturbaba los paisajes sonoros
de un café iraní en Quetta.

“Ya déjalo. Estás obsesionado con Karachi”

Y sí, lo estamos.
Como nuestros antepasados
obsesionados con Avadh y Kashmir.

Pero ellos fracasaron al elegir un grifo
no pudieron preferir el Indo sobre el Ganges,
el Ganges sobre el Éufrates.

Avadh vive en nuestro léxico, Kashmir en nuestro paladar,
vivimos en el valle de Sindh.
Pero fracasamos al elegir nuestro nombre
y fracasamos al elegir un grifo.

Con pólvora
limpiaron Srinagar y Karachi.
No nos dan tiempo de enterrar a los muertos.
Los cargamos.
Pesan.
Estamos siempre cansados, siempre sedientos.
Pero fracasamos al elegir un grifo
para bebernos las lágrimas.

Lágrimas hindús, lágrimas musulmanas,
Lágrimas panyabis, lágrimas bengalíes
Lágrimas mohajir, lágrimas sindhis.
Porque nuestros antepasados nos dijeron:

“Nunca vendan sus almas
por las razones que venden sus cuerpos.
Beban lágrimas para acallar su sed,
y lo que dice el Corán
tengan en mente:

'Cuando el cielo se hienda,
y cuando las estrellas se desperdiguen,
y cuando los mares se inunden,
y cuando las sepulturas sean saqueadas,
cada alma deberá saber que envía hacia delante
y que deja atrás.'”



Restos 

Después de la masacre
Cae la noche
Seca y sin luna.
Vamos a recoger las partes dispersas del cuerpo
Es más fácil, menos doloroso
En la oscuridad del cielo.
Los diez dedos parecen iguales
Un brazo no se distingue de una pierna
Un torso infantil del muslo de un hombre grande.

Pero, ¿y la cabeza?
Una cabeza es una cabeza
Muerta o viva.



Enterrar mártires que pesan 

Nos convertimos en una procesión funeraria
Los 180 millones de nosotros
Cargamos cientos de miles de cuerpos a cuestas
Nos dicen que son mártires y los mártires son luminosos, ligeros
Ligeros como pétalos de rosas. 
Pero los que cargamos pesan
Tienen metal en el interior
Balas, ojivas de metralla, perdigones, clavos,
Puntas de espadas y dagas rotas en la piel. 
Los cuerpos se disolverán en el lodo al enterrarlos
Pero el metal mantendrá la tierra dura bajo nuestros pies
Por mucho tiempo.

 

 



Original ↓

“I shall not return the borrowed dust…”
(For Osip Mandelstam and Agha Shahid Ali)

In Lahore, 
after the monsoon evening, 
darkness began edging away light. 
Tadpoles, chairs, pedestal fans and a TV appeared 
in Nana Farooq’s courtyard. 

“Let’s tune in Amritsar.” 

There were no cables, no dish antennae. 
We would be glued to blurred India for hours. 

“They made Pakistan on the train stations. 
Separate water taps for Hindu and Muslims. 
And they were labeled, 
Hindu pani, Muslim pani, 
my word.” 
Nana Farooq had said. 

Usman stirred the soundscapes 
of an Iranian café in Quetta. 

“Come off it. You are obsessed with Karachi.” 

Oh yes we are.
Like our forebears were obsessed 
With Avadh and Kashmir. 

But they failed to choose a water tap. 
And couldn’t prefer the Indus over the Ganges, 
the Ganges over the Euphrates. 

Avadh lives in our lexicon, Kashmir in our taste buds, 
we live in the valley of Sindh. 
But we fails to choose a name for ourselves 
and fail to choose a water tap. 

With gunpowder 
Srinagar and Karachi are cleansed. 
We are not given time to bury the dead. 
We carry them.
They are heavy. 
We are always tired, always thirsty. 
But we fail to choose a water 
tap and drink tears. 

Hindu tears, Muslim tears. 
Punjabi tears, Bengali tears. 
Mohajir tears, Sindhi tears. 
For our forebears told us, 

“Never sell you souls 
for the reasons you sell your bodies. 
Drink tears to quench your thirst, 
and what the Koran said 
bear in mind, 


'When the sky is cleft, 
and when the stars are scattered, 
and when the seas are flowed out, 
and when the graves are ransacked, 
each soul shall know what it sent afore 
and what it left behind…'”



Remains 

After the massacre 
The night has fallen 
Moonless and dry. 
Let us collect the scattered body parts 
Its’s easier, less painful 
In the darkness of the sky.
An arm cannot be made out from a leg 
Fingers from toes 
A child’s torso from a big man’s thigh. 

But what about the head? 
A head is a head 
Whether living or dead.



Burying martyrs who are heavy 

We are turned into a funeral procession
All 180 millions of us
We carry a hundred thousand bodies on our shoulders
We are told they are martyrs and martyrs are light
Light like rose petals.
But the ones we carry are heavy
They have metal inside
Bullets, shrapnel, pellets, nails
Tips of swords and daggers broken into the flesh.
The bodies will dissolve in the mud one buried
But the metal will keep the earth hard under our feet
For long.

Translator's Note

I met Harris Khalique in Iowa City during the first reading of the IWP 2015 (International Writer’s Program). He was the first writer to read in Shambaugh House and that day he wrote two unpublished poems, "Remains" and "Burying Martyrs who are heavy." I instantly wanted to work with him, because his poetry spoke personally to me. The situation of extreme violence and terror that he described resonated with the situation that my country, Mexico, has been living the last couple of years.

Khalique is the author of eight poetry books. Only the last one, Between You and your Love, was written in English; until then he had always written in Urdu. Nowadays, he lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he works as an engineer while writing poetry and essays.

The translation of Khalique’s poems was an experience. He met with me several times to discuss the poems and he made it clear from the start that the most important part for him was his message. He wanted me to preserve the meaning behind the images more than the images themselves. I still tried to be as faithful as possible to the imagery and sound of his poetry. Lines like “a child’s torso from a big man’s thigh” required that he explained that for him the man being big was important so that the confusion with a child could exit. The line “Fingers and toes” was difficult because there is no word for toes in Spanish. It was necessary to change the line around to preserve the meaning.

These translations would not have been possible without Khalique’s disposition and the IWP Graduate Translation class that gave me the opportunity to translate his poetry into Spanish.


Andrea Chapela Saavedra

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