Wednesday, April 11, 2018

After Seeing Kozintsev’s King Lear, in Delhi by Agha Shahid Ali

After Seeing Kozintsev’s King Lear, in Delhi

Lear cries out “You are men of stones”
as Cordelia hangs from a broken wall.

I step out into Chandni Chowk, a street once
strewn with jasmine flowers
for the Empress and the royal women
who bought perfumes from Isfahan,
fabrics from Dacca, essence from Kabul,
glass bangles from Agra.

Beggars now live here in tombs
of unknown nobles and forgotten saints
while hawkers sell combs and mirrors
outside a Sikh temple. Across the street,
a theater is showing a Bombay spectacular.

I think of Zafar, poet and Emperor,
being led through this street
by British soldiers, his feet in chains,
to watch his sons hanged.

In exile he wrote:
“Unfortunate Zafar
spent half his life in hope,
the other half waiting.
He begs for two yards of Delhi for burial.”

He was exiled to Burma, buried in Rangoon.


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