Agha Shahid Ali

(4 February 1949 – 8 December 2001 / New Delhi / India)

Taxidermist


First the hand, delicate,
precise, knows how to carve
where to take the knife, make
more alive than when alive:

No fur, no feather,
I am only skin-deep, so easy
to get to the cancer beneath:

He fills me with straw,
Yeats's tattered coat at twenty-five,
(not the adolescent fancy-dress-scarecrow
when I won the first prize!)

No hurdle now,
he reaches my hunger:
I've never felt so full before!

I scare eagles, the stuffed crows
in his room; they escape me,
freedom a synonym for the sky.

Caressed by the leopard's vacant eye,
finally warm, secure, in his skin,
I turn towards the bloodless direction.

The fan drones in my veins,
blood humming like chopped air;
my tongue hangs out, poems dead in its corners.

Suave pimp of freedom, here I am, ready
for your show-window:
Will you now bargain for me?

Submitted: Saturday, June 16, 2012

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