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Leaving your city - Agha Shahid Ali

“My finger, your phone number as its tip, dials the night.” When I read Agha Shahid Ali’s poetry, I oscillate between sudden headrush of feeling, intense affinity with his images - a universality of experience, but also, the thought “What it must be to feel? really feel? and to find words that fit into the hole that those feelings leave?”. Nostalgia, loss, and deep love map Ali’s poetry. His writing is replete with distinct, photographic images, crafted with painful care, and with a generosity of romantic feeling and sensitivity that immediately transports the reader to the places he describes - sometimes real, sometimes surreal. The geography of emotion that Ali maps, is fluid, yet precise. In this poem, Ali is playing with laguage to describe a kind of love that is both individual and framed in the rhetoric of togetherness. The phrases swing like a trapeze artist from one lover to another, and one doesn’t know where “I” ends, and “you” begins.

“I balanced on the tip of your smile”

“Now I loiter in and out of your memory” The poem is an archive of visceral feeling and tender passion, of memories that refuse to leave the persona. This love is deeply entwined with the city. In fact, one wonders whether he is talking about the city itself. But often, in Ali’s poems the two become indistinguishable - the city and the character; much like the memory of a place begins to replace the place itself in one’s book of experiences.

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