Yokai | Waqas Khwaja

for Michael Rothenberg
Will someone rescue these demented lines
from the fever and fury of their loss?

The season on fire
the moon is out a-harvesting this fall
its tuft of hair unruly on its brow.

What reckoning awaits?

The past, a wrinkle
a ridge to stumble over
and enter the urn of the hollowed self.

Amigo, are you there?

Call him Michael.
Call him Mike.
He does not hear you anymore.

Beyond the harvest moon
a black-crowned night heron
shakes its wings and prepares to fly.

Can you hear the dwellers of these marshes?
Their odes to the subterfuge that is life?
Hermano, it is you I am trying to reach.

In a blaze of blue flames
the bird is on the wing
its breath glittering gold dust.

But it is dark here.
And the moon has not yet run out of its spite.

Go in peace
for your breath is now spores of light on the wind’s back 
floating across oceans and continents
seeded in the hearts of young and old alike.

One body only you have shed 
and, bird, taken another.

Heron’s take flight
Digital landscape from photographs ©2022 Michael Dickel

©2022 Waqas Khwaja
All rights reserved


Waqas Khwaja…

…has published four collections of poetry, Hold Your Breath, No One Waits for the Train, Mariam’s Lament, and Six Geese from a Tomb at Medum, and a literary travelogue, Writers and Landscapes, about his experiences as a fellow of the International Writers Program, University of Iowa, in addition to three edited anthologies of Pakistani literature, Cactus, Mornings in the Wilderness, and Short Stories from Pakistan. He served as translation editor (and contributor) for Modern Poetry of Pakistan, a Pakistan Academy of Letters project supported by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, showcasing translations of poems by 44 poets from Pakistan’s national and regional languages. He guest-edited a special issue of scholarly articles on Pakistani Literature for the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies and another, on Pakistani poetry, for Atlanta Review. Khwaja is the Ellen Douglass Leyburn Professor of English at Agnes Scott College where he teaches courses in Postcolonial literature, British Romanticism, The Gothic, Literature of Empire, Victorian novel, 19th century poetry, and Creative Writing.

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