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Translated from the Urdu by Afreen Akhtar


seven suhaagans and my brow!

how would an inditement of sandal

wash what is set in stone

it’s just that

with all the goodness of fervency

they have each consigned to me

names of their respective gods

and rumour has it

travelling through a forest at dusk

names come in quite handy!

Who Had the Leisure to Meet Oneself

I shall be able to pick 

the remnants of my pride

amass fragmented feathers of defeated flights

and with body’s assent, dismiss you

I had never taken such notice of my self

else this rite of parting would have concluded long ago

long ago

my courage would have bared itself on its heart

but then

who had the leisure to meet oneself?

Parveen Shakir (1952–1994) was a Pakistani poet, teacher, and a civil servant. She is best known for her poems, which brought a distinctive feminine voice to Urdu literature, and for her consistent use of the rare grammatical feminine gender for the word “lover.” Since her death, the “Parveen Shakir Urdu Literature Festival” has been held every year in Islamabad in her memoriam.

Afreen Akhtar is a writer and activist living in New Delhi. She has performed her poems and stories for UN Women, TEDx Gateway, The Wire and other platforms. She writes in Hindustani and English and her current obsession is to highlight the female voice in Urdu poetry.

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