Winter 2013 KR OnlinePoetry |

Two Versions of a Ghazal from Ghalib

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Ghalib, pen name of Mirza Asadullah Khan, a poet of nineteenth-century India, wrote in Urdu and Persian. He is widely regarded as the greatest poet of the Urdu language.


You say I cannot have it if you find my heart.
It was once mine: now I know who has it.

Love is by far the best thing in life. It took
All my sorrows: but has me hooked to it.

She is coy & cunning, sweet, exacting too.
She is playing you when you do not know it.

The heart can tell its story: what I know is this,
Every time I look for it, you say you have it.

My mentor likes to rub salt in my wounds.
Sir Tormentor, I ask, what do you take from it?



She keeps a store for hearts lost and stolen.
Should I lose one I know where to look for it.

Life’s longest epic is a day in love. I gave up
All my cares for one that takes no cure.

In life, she is laid back, in love enigmatic.
What if she plays cool, she is aching for you.

For many years now, I have polished this heart.
I will get its value when she puts a price on it.

I know you like to rub salt in my wounds.
This cauterizes me: what does it do for you?

M. Shahid Alam
M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. His poetry and translations of Ghalib have appeared (or will appear) in TriQuarterly Online, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Chicago Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sufi, Marlboro Review, Critical Muslim, Paintbrush, West Coast Review, etc.