Poems| Sartaj Ghuman

Photo : Leela

tête-à-tête 101

when they ask
so where are you these days? or
what do you do these days?
they don’t mean, how do you live?
far less, what do you live for?

what they’re asking is
what do you do for a living?
just smile and say, this and that
if you don’t have an answer for the giving

because, poetry, is not an answer
they’ll understand

they don’t mean
what do you do with your time?
they mean, what do you do about the money?

sorry to disappoint

he would always say
how glad he was that we’d turned out to be
such independent, well-balanced adults, we three
and caring too
as if his reiterating it
would make it true

a lonely winter night’s song

a year went by and then another
another orange summer chased by the rains
and now the snow is on the mountains again
soon we’ll have frost where there now is dew
another winter’s here and no sign of you

your memory was supposed to fade away
but fonder the heart has grown
grown steadily like the poplar trees
that we planted along the canal that feeds
the fields that together we ploughed
tall they stand proud and stout now
and with their leaves all dancing their heads sway
in the winds that will bring back the birds to the lake

and if only they would bring you too
what wouldn’t i give, what wouldn’t i do
to share with you a thermos of tea
watching another sunset from the hilltops
with our heads in the clouds and the town at our feet

and our airy conversations carried by the breeze
when you always mocked thoreau
were fascinated by chatwin’s books
and by sartre and proudhon
and though you thought nothing of his poetry
had behind your door that one photograph of rimbaud
him in harar, standing brazenly in white
harar, where they feed the hyaenas at night

i remember the last conversation we had
though how could i have known that then?
it was on the hill beyond the last aspen stands
where we’d gone riding far outside town
at sunset the sky was shredded into flaming bands
and you were thinking out aloud
about why - when they can fly to distant lands -
do the crows keep coming back

why don’t they just fly on and on
and now you’ve been gone so long
while here i am, alone with this quaint old song
as the days get shorter every day by a furlong
and sooner descends every twilight
ahead of time at dusk the cold nights arrive
all day in the fields to stay busy i strive

but what can i do when the blanket of stars unfurls
above clear violet skies? lonely by the coal brazier i sit
singing, if you’ve seen enough of the world
won’t you deign to pay me a visit?
for now the snow is on the mountains again
and soon we’ll have frost where there now is dew
another winter’s here and
it’d be nice to see you

one rainy evening

the bus stopped in the driveway
ten meters away
from the front door
it was raining so hard
we had to shout out loud
to make ourselves heard

she stood in the queue in front of me
and we saw two people leave
hunched over she peered nervously through the window
her pale hand resting on the back of a seat

then it was her turn and
she prepared to make a dash for it
tucked her purse under her left arm
and wrapped tight her woolen scarf
but misjudged the first step she took
and fell hard on her face on the asphalt

a love poem

i’d slip out for quiet walks on the terrace
when you thought i was in bed asleep
and then much later with the dogs
at night i walked the streets
while you slept for it kept
bothering me
that that was not where i belonged
and so i longed to be somewhere, somewhere else
don’t ask me where for i don’t know yet
you remember the time we argued about careers
your monologue that left me in tears
and i said i’d be happy
breaking stones by the roadside
i was young then and rather naïve
and i think i’ve changed my mind
since. i wouldn’t want anymore to break
them, just balance them in cairns
by the sides of the many roads that i take
and on the mountains, by the passes that i pass
i wish you could see it but alas
we’re very different people
i want you however to know
that i see your point of view
i understand your insecurities
and i don’t hold them against you
but i can’t help but plan my escape
while you think i’m hard at work
to the shadowy world you know nothing of
where crazy dreams and passions lurk
i know you will not understand
why i must do what i do in my turn
and it is beyond me it to describe
so please just sit there and watch me burn
but i want you to know that this isn’t a diatribe
it’s a love poem


  1. always touching by pen and by paint..

  2. You are such an amazing writer Sartaj! I should say you're an amazing artist........ and by that I mean a 'kalakaar'... as it means in Hindi.... with words and with paints, you make art!

    Best wishes for everything you do!