Old poetry

Photo on 9-15-15 at 10.32 AMSo, we just moved to Chicagoland, and in the process, a number of items long-buried in the basement emerged to daylight. One of these is my zippered vinyl folder, with a big “Tagamet” on its cover – one of the many gifts the doctors in my family received from medical sales representatives. My uncle, Dr. Merajuddin of Gujranwala, gave me this. I used this folder to store a huge array of poems that I’d written from the age of about 10 onward. I think I tapered off writing poetry, generally, in my mid-twenties, and only produced occasionally after that. I became conscious of contemporary poetic technique. That’s what killed my impulse. I realized that my doggerel-style sounded ridiculous, foreign, old-fashioned, too obvious.

Still, this collection brings back poignant, deeply-felt memories. Some of these poems cause me to hang my head and laugh in utter shame, for their anti-feminist, obscurantist sentiment. Svend vows that he will some day share the worst of the worst with an audience. Over my dead body …

Instead, today, I share with you a poem I wrote years and years ago. It is not much by way of emotion or quality, but as I read it to Svend, my voice caught, and the tears started falling quickly and I was unable to continue, for utter loss and grief. As you read it, you will say, what the hell, why would you be so overcome? But I really was, and my guilt, sadness, aloneness came rushing back to me as I went through to the third stanza. For fellow-Pakistanis, you will recognize a familiar dog-phobia, and the fear of stray dogs. For poets at heart, you will recognize the guilt, the change of heart, the sadness that come from realizing one’s error in fearing and hating the other.

Apology to a dog

My cat sat outside, huddled up,
but sheltered,-as the rain did pour;
I glanced ahead, and saw a large, black
mangy dog beside the door.
What if, when I leave, this fierce dog
should tear my cat apart?
I did not think: I shooed him off,
my deed dictated by my heart.
Broad-shouldered, he turned ’round, and like
a tired wolf, got up again,
and trotted loosely, wearily,
out, out, into the pouring rain.
A large, black, wolf-like dog he was,
but tired, soaked, and hurt, and sore,
that from the rain, I realized,
had taken shelter by my door.

As, heavy at the heart, I sit,
my greatest joy would be to see,
from here, a big, black dog returning, –
weary, sullen, wet, to me.

4 thoughts on “Old poetry”

  1. Baitee we as Muslims do not love dogs like the others especially The West. Unfortunately some ahadeeth quoted do not support love for dogs but the commentators have done a poor job of explaining the situations of those ahadeeth. There is no doubt about the dog with As-Hab-e-Kahaf that Allah SWT has mentioned in such a loving way and of course the dog has been part of those miraculous people.

  2. Bad poetry as the eulogy for a memorial service? Methinks I hear the sound of bonfires lighting up….
    Who determines what legacy we leave behind?

    I think you should just write the poetry you enjoy writing. All the arts go through ‘fads’, with some styles being in and others out. Thing is, you may be able to find an audience who loves your work and if you do that is wonderful! You can really help those people. But even if you don’t find an audience, write for yourself. Write for the joy of writing. Write for your imaginary poetry-reading-appreciating friend.

    1. There is certainly an argument for writing anything one wants to, for oneself, for a small audience, for an imaginary friend. You reminded me of why this discovery of my old poems is so poignant, in part: precisely because I wrote anything and everything, and my pen was closely linked to my heart. Becoming a grownup – more precisely, a working academic grownup – seems sometimes to have chopped some of the links between heart and pen.

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