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
my courage would have bared itself on its heart
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.