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Enigma of the Day and other poems

Riyaz Latif

Enigma of the Day*


on the slopes of dreams
all circles vertical,
vigils of silence,
dusk’s flowing faces,
intonation within intonation, unknown…
in fossilized perspectives
each new dimension netherworld
mute piazzas
drained of body and soul…
they are being distorted
the murmurs of lands and seas,
the airiness of breath,
in the soundless ranks
of mystery’s colonnades,
in sleeping waterfalls,
whose frenetic silhouettes
have shimmered thus?

the core of the dream
rearrange it a bit now;
emerge out now from
the floors of the eye’s ocean;
melt now
in the caress of evanescent colors!


*The poem borrows the title of a painting by the renowned Greek-Italian painter, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1975). The overall deportment of Chirico’s art has acted as a muse for this poem, and I have tried to align the imagery of this poem with the forlorn, enigma-laden atmosphere of his canvases, replete with distorted perspectives and emptied brooding squares.




banished we shall be
from the house from the town
from the body
from the world
from the derelict manor of air
from the resplendent palm of stars
we, in the interminable wilds of naissance,
gathering up sands of Time in our hearts
have set forth into the burrows of disavowal
we, gathering up our trees, our caverns
have raged from civilization’s blood;
have skidded from zones of soaring…
beyond hearing, perception, imagination
beyond darkness
beyond radiance
beyond extinction
beyond permanence…
banished we shall be one of these days
onto the eyeless lands of denuded possibilities
where exodus shall bear a strange demeanor;
in the roving air of liberty too
the firmament of vastness
shall be incredibly narrow




I live
in the fluid enigma
of lands…
from there
rising from
unborn tongues of
death-forging waves
now drop by drop
I drink the skies


The Ant


stretched shrunk
oblique askew
walking rushing my existence
a string of fervent frenetic bodies…
moment to moment, like moments here
there’s arriving passing attaining and vanishing;
there’s to cease an instant, and to be an instant…
striding roving, this is my musing:
towing this atom-worth body,
what more entanglement with
this world a grain of sugar?
towing this atom-worth body,
within the dominions of my own arms,
who knows what all I have lost?
who knows what I seek
in speck within speck wilds;
in the ears of a frenzied elephant!
striding roving, I ruminate:
brewing up a straw-light tempest,
in the stormy eyes of a droplet
I will have to plunge
On the watery shores of a teardrop
I will have to perish!




fastening shackles of aquatic flora
waters still clasp me
my breath water
my spirit water
in ripple within ripple folds of my image
a heritage of portals and windows
has unfurled fluid rudders…
glittering shimmering
in the effervescence of my net-cast veins
I set afloat lanterns of ornate-bodied boats
Holding sky’s mirror above the head,
spiraling down from the
million perplexed crimson eyes of fluttering pigeons,
the moss-tainted vaults and domes of
churches, palaces and funduqs — water
Marked on fluid vistas of my bosom,
piazza to piazza dove-wings,
countenances of civilizations,
column within column all voyager-forms of winds…
In the streets of water
have melded agelessly
gold-crusted circuits of merchant vessels!
Contained in all adornments but
occult laps of mirage-waves
have, each moment,
replenished my worn face…
so now recounting the sagas of
my own misty dreamy shadows,
incessantly perched on shoulders of flow,
what if I brewed up a storm of transformation?
what if I submerged in your eyes?


Read the Urdu original here.

Riyaz Latif has a PhD in art and architectural history and his work focuses on the visual production in pre-modern Islamic cultures. He emerged as a significant voice in Urdu poetry during the last decade of the twentieth century, and his poems have been published in reputed Urdu literary journals of India & Pakistan. Along with two collections of Urdu poetry, Hindasa Be-Khwaab Raton Ka (2006) and Adam Taraash (2016), as well as a book of translations into Urdu from European poetry, titled Mera Khoya Awazah (2014), he has published a number of articles, and has translated Urdu fiction and poetry into English. He is currently professor of art history at FLAME University in Pune.