Agha Shahid Ali
Shaving - Poem by Agha Shahid Ali
In the mirror, the hand hacks at my skin
It belongs to the child who used his father's
blades for sharpening pencils, playing murder.
Full of cuts, I have the blood-effacing
instruments: water, water, and survival
tricks : I'm as clean
as glass, my brown face glistens
with oil, turns a fine olive green.
There's no return
to the sanctuary
of ripped paper-boat-journeys
This is morning, I must
scrub myself. A college lecturer, I smell of talcum
Old Spice and unwritten poems.
The mirror smiles back like a forgotten student:
The hairs die like ants in the basin.
My reflection gathers the night's dust,
I wipe it with the morning towels.
The girls drape their muslin shawls,
their necks turn on Isadora's wheels:
In the classroom I shuffle like unrhymed poetry
The blade, wet with Essenin's wrist,
waits with the unwritten poem.
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