National Poetry Month, Day 16: Agha Shahid Ali

Today’s poem comes from Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, with whom I had the great fortune of studying, briefly, before he died (long before his time). Sometimes in life you get the opportunity to spend time with someone and even though it’s short, it touches you. I think many of his students probably felt that way about Shahid, and I did too–he was the loveliest, strangest spirit, and when he died, I could feel him around me for many weeks. I regret missing his funeral (I was in Boston, visiting my parents), and most of all, I regret not going to his apartment to read to him after I learned that the brain tumor that eventually killed him had ruined his eyes. (He might not have said yes, but I should have offered.) I have hazy, warm memories of dinner parties at his apartment, drinks after workshop, and the intense joy he took from every interaction. I miss him.

This poem, “Stationery,” is–well, lovely. Enjoy.


The moon did not become the sun.

It just fell on the desert

in great sheets, reams

of silver handmade by you.

The night is your cottage industry now,

the day is your brisk emporium.

The world is full of paper.


Write to me.

From The Half-Inch Himalayas, ? Agha Shahid Ali, Wesleyan, 1987