Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Waqas Khwaja


Note:: His statement can be found in the first poem called 'Poetry for Peace'


Poetry for Peace


Sounds good, doesn’t it

with that alliteration, assonance, and all that stuff

but really, come off it

are we indeed so naïve as to believe

that poetry (or poets) can bring peace


When was it ever so

Name your poet or prophet

Vyasa or Valmiki

Homer, Virgil, Dante

Buddha, Nanak, or Kabir


Moses, Jesus, Mohammad

Orpheus with his charmed lyre

David of the honeyed harp strings

Mirabai, Tuka Ram, Lal Ded



Name your prophet or poet

those great singers and charmers of the past

all those warblers stretching their necks

and pouring forth their souls into their songs



Hafiz, Sa’adi, Omar Khayyam

Rumi, ah Rumi

secluded forty days with Shams Tabrizi

spinning round and round like a planet

in homage


Goethe, Milton, Shakespeare

Blake or Wordsworth

Whitman of the barbaric yawp

the recluse, Emily, nobody herself

asking everyone “Are you—Nobody—too?”



Bullah or Baba Farid

Waras Shah who wrote the Heer

Shah Husain singing his inspired Kafis

for Madhu Lal, his lost love


Name your poet or prophet

who ever was successful

you pretenders to the mantle divine

in establishing this elusive order

Harmony and concord indeed





Hold your breath


Hold your breath

for the day is gone

and half the night

It is already late

and if ever dawn

breaks out

you, my friend, will never know


Ah, hold your breath

Silence itself will teach you what

you need to know

the day is gone

and half the night

and what is left

it too will pass


If your eyes darken

let your eyelids fall

If your heart bleeds

let it find release

the day is gone

and half the night

tomorrow this desert

may come to bloom

but you will not know


Going back


Not this time

No, it does not feel like home

All is familiar as before

Nothing seems to have changed

Covered in dust

Leaves hang limp

Birds struggle

To find shade

Faltering fluttering

Their ragged dry wings

Dogs slink away


Chased all day

By a relentless sun

And tar oozes from roads

That sizzle and sputter

Under tearing vulcanized tires

While dirty homespun awnings

Over streetside stores

Are lowered deep

To keep out burning air


Not this time

Though in late afternoons

When shadows seep

Into declining light

Just as they did

Twenty years earlier

And perhaps thirty before that

Long lines of children

Women and exhausted men

Form at municipal

Hand pumps and hydrants

Each clutching hopefully

A pitcher, a plastic pail, or a jug

Chattering away as they wait

Occasionally breaking

Into exasperated quarrels

And all go suddenly quiet

Slumping a bit

When word travels down

That water

Has stopped once more


Nothing seems to have changed

People curse and complain

Make a few lewd remarks

Then rouse themselves

With gossip, jokes, tall tales

Till there is something

At last really to cheer about

One hour of light

After two without

Water suddenly flowing again

A cool breeze picking up

A surprising tail-end resistance

Before eventual loss

A minor sporting victory

After a string of defeats

Rains unexpectedly

After a month of hellish sun

An unusual judicial challenge

To martial rule

A lone voice

Against a culture of corruption


Not this time

Though nothing seems

To have changed

Generators purr away

In walled mansions

Electric motors pull

All water for private use

While people wait

At municipal hand pumps

Honest leaders remain dull as ever

The smart make money on bets

Whoever wins or loses

And the military

Gorges itself on privileges

Saving crumbs of course

For famished politicians

Finicky bureaucrats

Quietly pocket their pickings

Justices cash in

On a timely decision or two

And bankers keep all accounts secret

To protect themselves and their clients


Where I live now

The fight is all about oil

Not water

Billions of gallons are flushed down

With toilet paper each day

No display of public wants is authorized

If they have to

People die behind closed doors


Despoiled in their own filth

Still clutching half-opened cans

Of cat and dog food

Sex offenders lie low

And operate as usual

Only ostentatious displays

Of wealth and indulgence

Are officially permitted

And synthetic assets of course

More food is discarded each day

Than can serve

An entire continent


Back where I started

Our dividends match

The investments we made

Try praying in a mosque

Or at home

Alone or in groups

Try visiting a sick friend

A relative in a hospital

Attend a wedding

Or a funeral

Be a good Muslim

Or a bad one

A Christian, Hindu, whatever

Recite Sufi poetry if you will

There’s a man in a hood

Waiting for you

There are bullets printed

With your name on them

Bombs and shrapnel

That carry your DNA

Wherever you go






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