Sadaf Halai

Motif, in the Master’s ghazal, is both agent
and provocation. Given time, suffering
becomes the balm itself.
The transgendered headless body in Peshawar
is decomposed, rubbed out by torture.
An old photograph shows her seated: the pose
part school-girl, part film-star. The head is tilted,
the index finger touches chin, the studied
ode to frailty. But unlike Ghalib we
no longer wrestle with our
wishes, those thousand winged deserters, each
one a thug, an exhalation. A vapor
billows past the fruit stall and the open
drain, it is a nausea that will not lift
no matter who the doctor, no matter
what the medicine. We feel by feeling.
In everything is ordained design. But
sometimes it’s hard to tell apart
the iris of the eye and the flecks inside the sun,
the knuckle of the hand and the chin it rests upon.

SADAF HALAI has published poems in Ploughshares, Granta, Granta Online, Vallum and the Journal of Postcolonial Literature.