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A Poem Off The Page

Jan 2017

SalmanPosterRight now the friends of my friends are being disappeared
Soon it will be my friends’ turn
And then mine…

When I become the file
that my father will bring to court hearings
Or the picture that my son will kiss when asked by a journalist
Or the silence that my wife will wear as jewelry
Or the murmurs of the prayers that my mother will utter before blowing softly on my picture
Or the number that will be used to call and summon me in prison
Or the sin that I never sinned
Or the confession that I had signed even before I was abducted
Or the sentence that was given even before I confessed
Or the punishment that is meted out evenly to me and my people
Or the law whose stench is nauseating to civilized noses
Or the commission that dabs the perfume of such laws before convening
Or the poem that the friends of my friends will write, tomorrow

Yes, I am a poem

A picture is imprisoned on the page opposite mine,
With parted lips, one holding a blossoming kiss, the other drenched in hums of songs
A framed file beside it, and in the drawer next to it???
Sins, confessions, and punishments, perhaps
I cannot open that drawer
For I will have to leave this page to do so
And leaving a page of verse is a serious sin
As grave as helping books escape locked closets

Salman Haider, 27 July 2016
Disappeared, 6 January 2017
Translation by Ahsan Kamal


This poem was originally written in Urdu on 27 July, 2016, by Salman Haider, after the disappearance of Wahid Baloch, a human rights activists who went missing from Karachi for four months. Salman Haider, a poet, writer, playwright, professor, and an editor of the online magazine Tanqeed, is one of the four political dissidents who has gone missing since the start of the year.

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