This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone at all could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.
The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter struck his bow.
Oh, God of May, have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood.
Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.
(Translation by Naomi Lazard whom some have said did brave and lonely work p. 73,
"The True Subject: Writers on Life and Craft" Edited by Kurt Brown)
Easy to see why his poetry is still alive...(both on a personal level as well as an international level.)
Hard to figure him out...
A challenge for ALL the diverse groups whom he represented or groups he was so sure belonged to them body and soul. Yet he seemed to often challenge each and all...even when they awarded him...even in his award speech(es).
I post him here because it is the end of Autumn in America/ the beginning of Winter (in more ways
than one) and this poem has much to say to us who still call ourselves Americans of any party, race or religious affiliation -- especially we who call ourselves writers. Are we up for the challenge? Is it too late? Is it ever too late?
Despite being repeatedly accused of atheism and of being allied to various groups and leaders with feet and feat of clay, his poetry suggests a more nuanced relationship with religion, traditions and politics than may even yet be understood.
For example, he was greatly inspired by both secular poetry and South Asia's Sufi traditions.
He was publicly honored by the Pakistan Government after his literary work was publicly endorsed and posthumously honored him with nation's highest civil award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1990. Yet, he was sent to prison and also exiled for years by his nation's decisions.
While I claim no strong alliance with this poet -- in fact, I found this poem just yesterday for the first time.
I decided to post this poem of his today -- just before reading that his death anniversary was just commemorated.
Maybe others will see something in this poem which speaks to universal loss? Perhaps another who finds this poem here will also be in some way helped by such beautiful sorrow and vow once more to
help/let one bird to sing?
(Image above is Cezanne's "A Bend in the River" which is in the public domain.)
Below in comments I may attempt to offer a few practical challenges (and possible actions) for our time which in the first case has implications between Americans and Pakistanis.