CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Five Poems
Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797–1869)
translated by Andrew McCord



naqs faryadi hai kis ki sukhi-e-tehrir ka?

A depiction complains of whose casual hand that made it?
Every figure in the picture is dressed in paper, fading.

Don’t ask what excavations the solitary, heart-stricken enact
To irrigate the desert with milk, to turn dawn out of the evening.

The energy of giving the will up to longing is well worth seeing:
The edge leaves the blade as the breath leaves the breast.

Understanding, spread the net of your awareness how you like.
What I mean flies impossibly through an atmosphere I talk up.

Although I am, Ghalib, in prison, fire at my feet,
My chains are no more than links of hair in the flames.








kehte ho na denge ham dil agar para paya

You say you would not give my heart back if you found it.
I’ll lose it. I meant to send it. Now I’ve found out how.

My disposition found from love a pleasure in existing,
Found medicine for pain and pain whose cure cannot be found.

Heart, I know you are the friend of the enemy I love.
My sighs have no effect. I find my cries don’t reach you.

Simplicity and embellishment, obliviousness and awareness—
Beauty finds in careless changing how to test my courage.

The bud began to blossom and today I saw
The bloodied heart I lost and now have found.

I know nothing of the state of my heart except that I
Have searched for it as often as you have found it.

The noise of my friend’s counsel salts my wounds.
Someone ask him what pleasure he finds advising me.








-ah ko cahiye ek ’umr asar hone tak-

It takes lifetimes before my sighs have an effect.
Who could live until your tresses are conquered?

Gaping in each wave are jaws of crocodiles
That stars’ tears must escape before becoming pearls.

To love is to seek patience, to be restless with longing.
I will describe my heart until it becomes a pulp.

We believed you would never neglect us,
But we will be dust before the news reaches you.

The dew’s lesson in annihilation comes from sunlight.
I, too, wait for the gift of such instruction.

Neglecter, the time of being is no more than a glance.
The warmth of this party vanishes before a spark’s dance.

What can cure the pain of living, Asad, but death?
A candle burns through every color until the dawn.








darkhwar-qahr-o-gazab jab ham sa na hua

Nothing is wrong in saying nobody like me has been.
No one ever was so suited to your rage and torment.

Even in slavery we have the freedom of will to turn
Back from the ka’ba when the door has not been opened.

The claims made of your uniqueness are known to everyone
But no one has faced you and nothing reflects you.

Your eyes are hardly less alluring while you waste away.
As you languish who complains that you do not recover?

A cry falling short of the lips scars the breast.
A drop short of the ocean only waters sand.

My fame is for sadness no one else has found.
My work is struggle that always comes to nothing.

If blood does not drip from the root of every hair
You have been hearing romances, not analysis, not love.

If the Tigris does not show in a drop—the total in a factor—
All this was child’s play, nothing to do with being visionary.

News was fresh that the rag Ghalib would be ripped to pieces:
I went out to see it too, but went back disappointed.








yeh na thi hamari qismat

It was not my destiny to join my beloved.
If I lived any longer, just so, I’d have waited.

If I lived on your promise, know, I knew it a lie.
Surely I would die of joy if I could believe it.

Your delicacy showed up the weak bonds of your promise:
If ever they were fast, how ever could you break it?

Someone asks after the arrow from your half-drawn bow.
Would my liver sting still if fully it had pierced it?

What friendship is it made friend an advisor,
Not someone who healed, took up my sorrow and shared it?

Blood would not stop dripping from a stone’s veins
If what you know as my anguish would flash for an instant.

Grief is all and all-destroying, but who escapes it?
Without sorrow of love there would be sadness of living.

Who can I tell what it is? A night away is disaster.
Death would be nothing to me, if it came and that were it.

In the grave, they so reviled me I’d better have drowned,
So, avoiding a funeral, a tomb and who might build it.

Who can you see him in his singularity, his oneness?
Were somewhere scent of duality, our gaze would meet its.

Instances of mysticism! Such discourses, Ghalib!
We would think you a saint, if you could put down the goblet.