Farewell for Patricia O’Neill

by Agha Shahid Ali

     Solitudinum faciunt et pacem appellant.
             Tacitus (speaking through a British chieftain
                               regarding Pax Romana)

At a certain point I lost track of you.

They make a desolation and call it peace.

When you left even the stones were buried:

The defenceless would have no weapons.

When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks, who collects
                  its fallen fleece from the slopes?

O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished, who weighs the
                  hairs on the jeweler’s balance?

They make a desolation and call it peace.

Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?

My memory is again in the way of your history.

Army convoys all night like desert caravans:

In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved all
                   winter its crushed fennel.

We can’t ask them: Are you done with the world?

In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked
                  in each other’s reflections.

Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are
                  found like this centuries later in this country
                            I have stitched to your shadow?

in this country we step out with doors in our arms.

Children run out with windows in their arms.

You drag it behind you in lit corridors.

If the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything.

At a certain point I lost track of you.

You needed me.  You needed to perfect me:

In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.

Your history gets in the way of my memory.

I am everything you lost.  You can’t forgive me.

I am everything you lost.  Your perfect enemy.

Your memory gets in the way of my memory:

I am being rowed through Paradise on a river of Hell:
                  Exquisite ghost, it is night.

The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves:

It is still night.  The paddle is a lotus:

I am rowed as it withers toward the breeze which is soft as
                  if it had pity on me.

If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn’t
                  have happened in this world?

I’m everything you lost.  You won’t forgive me.

My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.

There is nothing to forgive.  You won’t forgive me.

I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to
                  myself.

There is everything to forgive.  You can’t forgive me.

If only somehow you could have been mine,

what would not have been possible in the world?