Stay Away from Me
How can I embellish this carnival of slaughter? How decorate this massacre?
Whose attention could my lamenting blood attract?
There's almost no blood in my rawboned body
And what's left isn't enough to burn as oil in the lamp?
Not enough to fill a wineglass.
It can feed no fire,
Extinguish no thirst.
There's a poverty of blood in my ravaged body—a terrible poison now runs in it.
If you pierce my veins, each drop will foam as venom at the cobra's fangs.
Each drop is the anguished longing of ages' the burning seal of a rage hushed up for years.
Beware of me. My body is a river of poison.
Stay away from me. My body is a parched log in the desert.
If you burn it, you won't see the cypress or the jasmine, but my bones blossoming like thorns in the cactus.
If you throw it in the forests, instead of morning perfumes, you'll scatter the dust of my seared soul.
So stay away from me. Because I'm thirsting for blood.
This is how my sorrow became visible: its dust, piling up for years in my heart, finally reached my eyes, the bitterness now so clear that I had to listen when my friends told me to wash my eyes with blood.
Everything at once was tangled in blood—each face, each idol, red everywhere.
Blood swept over the sun, washing away its gold.
The moon erupted with blood, its silver extinguished.
The sky promised a morning of blood, and the night wept only blood.
The trees hardened into crimson pillars.
All flowers filled their eyes with blood.
And every glance was an arrow, each pierced image blood.
This blood-a river crying out for martyrs—flows on its longing.
And in sorrow, in rage, in love.
Let it flow. Should it be dammed up, there will only be hatred cloaked in colors of death.
Don't let this happen, my friends, bring all my tears back instead, a flood to fill my dust-filled eyes, to wash this blood forever from my eyes.
Translated from Urdu by Agha Shahed Ali.
Born on February 13, 1911, poet, journalist and writer Faiz Ahmed was a defiant voice against tyranny, oppression and imperialism. Since the foundation of Pakistan, he maintained a critical position against the discriminatory role of Punjabi-dominated Pakistan state, especially in its treatment of East Pakistan. He was one of the few conscientious Pakistanis of note to vehemently oppose the military crackdown on the unarmed Bangalee population. In the context of this tragedy, Faiz published his famous poems Hazar Karo Merey Tan Sey and Bangladesh II in 1971.
He was conferred the Friends of Liberation War Honour in 2013 by the Bangladesh government for his contribution to the country's cause of liberation.
Agha Shahed Ali was a noted Kashmiri poet.
This translation first appeared in The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems in 1995.