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New Translations Of Fahmida Riaz’s poetry

Tahira Naqvi, writer, translator and lecturer of Urdu at New York University has translated Fahmida Riaz’s poems. These delicate translations capture the nuances of Riaz’s verse and remain loyal to the tone of her majestic works. To read more about Fahmida Riaz click here.

“Bring your hand here, bring it here”

Bring your hand here, bring it here
Touch my body
And listen to the beating of your child’s heart
On that side of the navel
Feeling his movement you
Leave it just here
For a while longer this hand, and my cold
My restless being is at peace,
My healer, the healer of my pain
Every hair on my body
Is being comforted by the touch of this palm
Under this palm my beloved son is turning on his side
With your fingers know his body
You get to know him
Let me kiss these fingers of yours
Let me kiss every part of these fingers
Let me press these nails to my lips
These green fingers that carry flowers
Spilling over from my eyes tears
With which I will saturate them
Let me kiss the roots of the green fingers that carry flowers
Your hair, the moon of your forehead your lips
These shiny black eyes
How surprised are they to see my moist eyes my quivering lips
What do you know, what do you know
How you have transformed me
There was a demon of darkness inside me
From here to there an undying emptiness
I wandered aimlessly
Yearning to taste the flavor of existence
My heart filled with tears, laughing at everyone
You filled me in such a way
Now from my body emanates a radiance
All the sacred books that have been handed down
All the prophets that have been sent down until now
All the angels that exist beyond the clouds
Color, music, melody flowers, branches, trees
The boughs swaying gently in the morning
All the meanings attributed to them
All the songs of joy that have been sung to those who inhabit the earth
All the holy men, all apostles, prophets, saints
The gods of good fortune, beauty, uprightness God
Today I believe in them all, I believe in them

“The Mantle and the Boundary Wall”

Sir, what will I do with this black mantle,
Why do you offer it to me with such kindness?

Am not in mourning so why should I wear it,
To show the world sorrow and unhappiness,
Nor am I a disease that I should drown in shame in its depths
Nor am I a sinner nor a criminal
That I should stamp its blackness on my forehead at any cost
If you do not consider me rude
If you promise not to threaten my life
Then with folded hands I make an entreaty
That dear Sir
In your perfumed chamber respected sir lies a corpse
No one knows rotting for how long
It now asks you for mercy
Sir have mercy on it please
Do not give me the black mantle
Cover the naked corpse in your chamber with the black mantle
Because the odor that bursts forth from it
Is now panting in all the streets
It thrashes its head against the thresholds
It covers its nakedness
Just listen to the heart-rending screams
That create such strange shadowy forms
That are naked even when covered with the mantle

You must know who they are
Sir, you must be familiar with them

They are girl slaves
That fill the quota of permitted hostages in the night
Remain without a home till the morn
Not worthy of the one-half legacy of your sperm

These are women
Who are waiting in line
To offer their gift of spousal companionship
They are little girls
Whose head your hand patted affectionately
After which your white beard was colored with  young blood
In your perfumed bridal chamber life has wept tears of blood
Where lies this corpse
The bloody entertainment of centuries long murder of humanity
End this entertainment now, Sir, cover it up now

The black mantle is now your need, not mine
Because on this earth my existence is not just an imprint of lust
On the grand path of life shines my intelligence
The sweat shining on the face of the earth is my labor

These four walls, this mantle I bequeath to the rotting corpse
My ship will unfurl its sails and advance in the open spaces
I am the partner of the new Adam
Who won my trusting companionship.


Who is born of the mother of Habeel and Qabeel
Born of the same mother
But different
Different between her thighs
And inside her belly
Inside her womb
Why is it their fate
The sacrifice of a fat ewe
She the prisoner of her body
In the burning heat
She is standing on a knoll
She is become an imprint on stone
Look at that imprint closely
Above the long thighs
Above the full breasts
Above the convoluted womb
Aqleema also has a head
Allah should also talk to Aqleema once
And ask her something

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