This Biography


My heart beat fast or did not beat at all;

I could not say all that I thought and thought

till words deserted me. I loved too abstractly.

I dreaded how all there was to give was me—

like water, this biography. I unravelled far too easily

then fled to selfish deserts and slept on the hardest rocks.

I couldn’t make what others made and broke and broke

and made, that sweet choreography. I went alone

and missed the world continually. I misread smiles;

I stuttered before open arms, but time passed too fast

for disappointment’s imprint on the glass of memory.

I sought the future even when the blood swirled now,

I let the past decide too greedily. I kept searching out

the window, I tried to stay half hidden by the light.


By Anjum Hasan









 Innan Ganges Flyter in i Natten (2009)


I min mammas kläder


Jag känner hur den kalla svetten under mina armar

försynt fuktar hennes blus – blyga, våta blommor

av min svett på hennes blus.


Jag bär hennes färger, törstblå och skogsgrön

och bränd orange, som om de tillhörde mig:

min mammas färger på min hud

i en dammig stad.


Jag går i hennes kläder

med ett skratt inombords, befriad

från bördan att vara det jag bär

för i min mammas kläder

är jag varken mig själv eller min mamma,


utan mer den där spinkiga

varelsen på sex år som trär

sin mammas guldringar på sina fingrar,

drar på sig en stor kofta som luktar solsken och mjölk,

och dåsig av kärlek leder sig själv genom rum

med fördragna gardiner mot det honungslena juniljuset. 


By Anjum Hasan

(translated by Marie Lundkvist)



 Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond 

Tina Chang (Editor), Nathalie Handal (Editor), Ravi Shankar (Editor), Carolyn Forché (Foreword)

W.W. Norton & Co., 2008


    A Place Like Water

    All through the day it stays: the sadness of coming 
into a wet city at dawn, not speaking, neither of us, 
    when one by one the neon lights wake us from a cramped, 
dream-ravaged sleep, driving home in one long curving sweep 
    on traffic-less roads with their morning walkers and damp dogs;
still thinking of that other place worked on by the sun, 
    the casuarina trees and shouts of people on the beach, frayed and 
muffled by the heaving of the sea. We climb wet stairs where
    no one’s been for days, thinking it ought to be the case that one 
returns with screws, a piece of string, some word or turn 
    of phrase, something to fit somewhere, that click or slide or 
resolution that has been wanting. Instead a winter monsoon 
    blurs the world; we wash our hair, shake out sand from folded clothes, 
sleep for a while in the still early morning while vendors shout 
    the names of flowers, sleep so that our bones at least achieve that 
calm alliance with our breathing and take us where we 
    want to go: a place like water when it lifts us in a magnet wave 
to set us down again, and we’re unencumbered, weightless, brave; 
    our questions turn to images of strangers waving across fields, 
pointlessly, insistently, across fields, through falling rain. 

        By Anjum Hasan


60 Indian Poets (2008)




    I remember the urgent knocking of the

    heart’s small fist before a school elocution,

    or running into a nun round a corner

    and made idiot by that prim mouth,

    those flawless skirts. There were

    agonised deputations to the sitting room

    at home, to ask some muddy-booted,

    cigarette-smelling visitor about tea.



    That quivering emotion belonged perhaps

    to quiet bedrooms on winter afternoons

    in near-forgotten, hill-encircled towns

    where children lisped tentative answers

    to the questions of some serene matriarch,

    and ate, anguished by undisguisable crunching,

    the brittle butter biscuits from her tins.

    That slow ordeal between the window’s lace

    and the fire burning in the grate

    was the established manner of being young.


    To be shy now is odd or impolite: no one

    expects it. There’s no longer the implication

    of grace in being reserved. Yet doggedly

    I remain the girl once bent over a shirt

    on Sundays, ironing alone through afternoons

    ill-defined by the monsoon’s whimsical light.

    It was only when coloured dream matched

    the pressing to perfection of stiffened cuff

    or pleated skirt, that I possessed all the clarity,

    all the beauty in the world.
       By Anjum Hasan