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The Season of the Plains

by Agha Shahid Ali


In Kashmir where the year
has four clear seasons, my mother
spoke of her childhood

in the plains of Lucknow, and
of that season in itself,
the monsoon, when Krishna’s

flute is heard on the shores
of the Jamuna. She played old records
of the Banaras thumri-singers,

Siddheshwari and Rasoolan, their
voices longing, when the clouds
gather, for that invisible

blue god. Separation
can’t be borne when the rains
come: this every lyric says.

While children run out
into the alleys, soaking
their utter summer,

messages pass between lovers.
Heer and Ranjha and others
of legends, their love forbidden,

burned incense all night,
waiting for answers. My mother
hummed Heer’s lament

but never told me if she
also burned sticks
of jasmine that, dying,

kept raising soft necks
of ash. I imagined
each neck leaning

on the humid air. She only
said: The monsoons never cross
the mountains into Kashmir.

 

Agha Shahid Ali, from Kashmir, is in the MFA program at the University of Arizona. His poems have appeared in many journals, including kayak, Missouri Review and Southern Poetry Review. (1984)


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