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Tabish Khair

House With The Grey Gate

In my street there is a white house with a little grey gate
That is slightly off one hinge and always open.
An old woman sits on its porch and knits,
Looking up when the gate creaks with age or wind,
Expecting someone; though no one comes, nor has come for years.
An old man sometimes tidies up the faded garden
Where shrubbery has spread, refusing to be weeded out.

Ever since I moved here I have seen this little white house-
With the old man and the old woman and an old pattern of life-
Refusing to be weeded out from this skyscraping street;
Where two people had grown roots, once, scattered seeds,
And now, with a hope stubborn as weeds,
Still peer through curtained windows when the gate creaks.

Remembering Tiananmen

Sometimes, I sigh for life—
So many farewells, meetings how few.

Sitting silently in the willow-breaking pavilion
What can we do but remember; remember
The days that had been dragon-ridden,
The young men and women who had loved too much
And let their love bear leaves without the deeper root.

In China, once when the ky-lin had shrieked,
Someone had made poems of the injustice all felt,
Of every heart's desire not yet fulfilled.
Unheard, from the shadows he had leapt into the dark,
Leaving us only with memories of dragon-boats and

All good things soon come to an end, our elders had said
When we stood in Tiananmen Square making poems.
Today, when we hide in the willows, awaiting almond blossoms,
We told you so, they seem to say shaking the snow in their hair.
Having planted no cherry tree, the old can afford to be wise.

Note : The myths, symbols, legends, and phrases used in this poem
have been drawn from Chinese literature.


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