October 13, 2021

The Beggar of Balat by Ruswa Fatehpuri

I am brother to these bones
Entombed kings and pits of lepers
Shuffling mourner at the evening’s close
The beggar no one has the heart to move
Or ask “where does he go by daylight?”

All I know of sunshine now is hoarded
Deep in stone. The coping of a fountain
The city’s tall south wall. Gravestones
Weighted with invading moss and jealous ivy

I search the pockets of my memory
Patting for the things I’m sure I had
The taste of cardamom and cloves
The press of bee-stung lips
Rose oil and rosehip tea, the waft
Of Oudh and promises from balconies
Hot eyes in the shadows, in the alleys

All these are gone. Faded with the patterns
Stained glass makes on chapel floors
The empty pews and pulpits draped in webs
The walls embrace the echo of the last
Castrati chorister - God song sublime with
Yearning for maidens left unknown

Shall we talk of ivory? The glory that I could be to behold
Skin smooth, eternal virginal, firm beneath a clutching fist
The moon and those lost chansons dragged close in my embrace
Arias of sweat and blood, saliva. Desire and violence
The way a heart knows only too late to cease its beat
But no. I am not this

I pass the pit and sepulchre
Bow and drag a nail on consecrated ground
If this is my life eternal I shall live
As I had not lived. And worship

Only let me taste once more the cardamom


Ruswa Fatehpuri lives in London. His poems have featured in Beautiful Tragedies and The London Reader, and his e-chapbook "Sold and Bartered" is available online. 

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