Read time: 3 mins

City’s Clocks & Postman

by Rifat Abbas
19 May 2021

Translated from Seraiki to English by Muhammad Abdul Sami 

Translator’s note

Rifat Abbas’s poetry conflates urban imagery, oral traditions and contemporary social issues. Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) is a monumental clock tower in the main square of Multan city that was an administrative building during the British period. While the exterior of the building gets renovated every year, its massive clocks have been in a state of disrepair for decades. The building is uninhabited at present and occupied by street vendors and hawkers. In my translation, I wanted to highlight this urban imagery that is usually absent or is not considered ‘poetic’ in the larger Seraiki literary tradition. The mango trees and rosewoods are part of Multan’s cultural and ecological habitat. They have an idyllic aesthetic attached to them, but Abbas has tied them with another metaphor: metaphor of war and communication. 


 

City’s Clocks

This city’s clocks

broke four five decades ago

For their repair, we invited

craftsmen from far, far away

First came the maker of these clocks

He stood there laughing

He stood there crying

He stood there dancing

We draped him with flowers and made him sit on the city’s doorstep

Then came the seller of these clocks

A dozen clocks plastered across his face

A pendulum hung around his neck

swaying

The seller went around the city negotiating

We did not buy the time he brought

Then came a commissioner

He climbed up the towers of Ghanta Ghar

The sheep on those broken clocks

scared him

The bulls on those broken clocks

scared him

He got himself transferred

and never returned to the city

Then came a mechanic

Then a photographer

Then a commander

This city has given one final chance

to its poet


Postman

World War II

Were it not for the postman would have not ended

There were five rosewoods right here

whose sons were fighting on the front

There were five mangoes right here

whose sons were fighting on the front

The rosewoods wrote a letter to their sons

When will the war end?

The mangoes wrote a letter to their sons

When will the war end?

The rosewoods were informed from the front

The war will soon be over

The mangoes were informed from the front

The war will soon be over


Return to the collection


Illustration by Usman Ibrahim

 

About the Author

Rifat Abbas

Born in Multan, Rifat Abbas is a Seraiki poet and is a retired assistant professor from the Punjab Education Department. His literary work, spanning 40 years, consists of 10 poetry collections and a novel. Rifat received a National Award thrice from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan. He is interested in postcolonial discourses on indigeneity. […]

Related