This is a love poem based on a very well-loved love poem by the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmood Faiz, and I've taken his first line for my title.

Don’t Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

after Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Don’t think I haven’t changed. Who said
absence makes the heart grow fonder?
Though I watch the sunset redden
every day, days don’t grow longer.

There are many kinds of silence,
none more radiant than the sun’s.
Sun is silent in our presence,
unlike love, silent when it’s gone.

I thought that every spring was you,
every blossom, every bud;
that summer had little to do
but follow, singing in my blood.

How wrong I was. What had summer
to do with sorrow in full spate?
Every rosebush, every flower
I passed, stood at a stranger’s gate.

Weaving through our towns, centuries
of raw silk, brocade and velvet
have swilled the streets in blood. Bodies,
ripe with sores in lanes and markets,

are paying with their lives. But I
had little time for the world’s wars,
love was war enough. In your sky,
your eyes, were all my falling stars.

Don’t ask me, though I wish you would
and I know you won’t, for more tears.
Why build a dam at Sefid Rud
if not to water land for years?

Though we’ll never see the olives,
ricefields, shelter in an alcove
from the sun, in our time, our lives
have more to answer to than love.

from The Chine (Carcanet, 2002), copyright © Mimi Khalvati 2002, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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