The Same Fire by Medha Singh

      Another year passes as you are still, in your absence.

My grief is the same shape, a blue bottle.
Though, it’s begun to coddle rust, the incense / burns. I want to say 
the world is different, as it must be, as I sense you
would have liked it to be, though nothing
changes: it’s the same horror each day. 
No good King abjures dominion for truth, for virtue.
That’s a philosopher’s mistake.

       I want to say, things are
more alive in their absence. An empty cot,
is evidence of sleep. A stable without 
a horse, is an incomplete picture, quiet in its pallor.
A broken man’s empty bed, a house of slow decay,
swollen with the unconquerable ardor 
of violent, old regrets. His companions indifferent 
as a colony of egrets, going about their day.

      Two days ago, I met a lady who once knew
you, we found each other by the same fire, in the same gelid
air, on your birthday. A day after the solstice, the moon
full enough from the previous night. She raised a query,
(the air chilly, dropsical with invisible current 
from a netherworld) talking to a handsome Irani. 
—I don’t like how Omar Khayyam
has been translated, the translators have spilled
their pithy impulses far into the light
of that great poet-prophet’s inner music, 
dissolved them in some alien brine.

     I want to say, and I do, intruding,
Does poetry not ferment 
into a unique intoxicant, in each language
it is filtered through? Is translation not 
a kind of transformation?
I’m doing some translations myself.
She asked who, mouthing words to confirm 
whether it really was you, though she knew, 
she knew better, I’m sure. I look far 
too much like you to cause any doubt. 
I said your name, I said ‘my father.’

To no one’s surprise, she knew you, from thirty years ago, 
‘a young man in the BBC service, in London?’ 

      And look, thirty years on
we were under the same moon in Delhi’s cold, 
by the same fire, in the house 
of a man who wasn’t quite there.

      I told her, you were no more. She looked at me a while
with the quietest grief, climbing out of her eyes. 
She said  —I’m so sorry. And  —please send me the translations
when they will be done . Of course, I conceded, smiling.
Though, I don’t know when they will be.

      Your voice ringing in my ears each time I tried.
Especially on nights like these. You recite them,
as I go on. When the day you died, and the day you were born, 
are three days apart, the winter has more scorn for one, than usual.
And I hope, that I can tell you all this when I’m there, 
start all over, like we always did, when a story wasn’t told
well enough.

Medha Singh is the India Editor for The Charles River Journal, and a member of Editorial Board for Freigeist Verlag.