N.M. Rashid
Life—an Old Crone

Life—an old crone,
Scavenging the streets for rags day and night,
Wary, pathetic, shrieking with mad laughter,
Her hair disheveled, teeth discolored,
Clad in an impenetrable forest of dark rags.

                   A sudden gust of wind
Snatches sheaves of paper from her hand,
And she shakes her fist in impotent rage.
Her state grows worse,
For who can bear such calamity?

Victim of the wind, the weary old crone bows,
Bending over her feet as if she stood on treasure.
Life, what good is there in peering down that well,
The well of the past, barren, still with poison fumes.
What can you possibly find there?
Nothing lies down there but pebbles.
Nothing but a hollow echo.

Translated from the Urdu by Baidar Bakht and Kathleen Grant Jaeger.