Majeed Amjad

Translated from Urdu by Mehr Afshan Farooqi


On the radio, a prisoner speaks to me: “I am safe!
Listen . . . I’m alive!”
Brother . . . so, who is he addressing? When are we alive?
Having traded your sacred life for this glittery existence,
we died a long while ago.

We are in this graveyard—
we don’t even look up from our graves.
What do we know of the lamps of lament
your heartbreaking cries have lit?
In their light the world is now trying to make out our names
     on these tombstones.


Every time, in the same way, the world
molds flower buds of yellow mustard from a lump of gold,
and the breeze holds them in its undulations.

Every time, in the same way, branches
laden with bourgeoning shoots, 
leaning against spikes of fences along the way . . . what do they think?
    Who knows.

Every time, in the same way, raindrops
filtering through clouds brimming with color
come to rattle against the copper sheet that spreads into the distance.

Every year, a season, just like this,
every time, this scent of absence,
every morning, these harsh tears. When will the times of mourning come?



These poems have been excerpted from Modern Poetry of Pakistan, forthcoming from
Dalkey Archive Press.


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Majeed Amjad (1914–1974): A native of Jhang, in what is today Pakistan’s Punjab province, Amjad is regarded as one of the most important Urdu poets of the twentieth century. He wrote with a distinctive poetic voice, its range and depth unique in modern poetry, and commanded a variety of themes and in- novative forms. Before joining the civil service, he edited a literary magazine, Urooj, but was removed from this post for writing a poem against the British Raj. A recluse, Amjad published only one collection of his verse during his lifetime. A second volume and his collected works were published many years after his death.

Mehr Afshan Farooqi is an assistant professor in the University of Virginia’s Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures. She specializes in the literary cultures of South Asia, especially the literary culture and history of north India, and teaches both Hindi and Urdu language and lit- erature. Her most recent publication is the two-volume Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature (2008). She is presently working on a monograph on the Urdu literary and cultural critic Muhammad Hasan Askari.




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