Poetic Form: Ghazal  
The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning.

Traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions, ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Indian, and Pakistani musicians. The form has roots in seventh-century Arabia, and gained prominence in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century thanks to such Persian poets as Rumi and Hafiz. In the eighteenth-century, the ghazal was used by poets writing in Urdu, a mix of the medieval languages of Northern India, including Persian. Among these poets, Ghalib is the recognized master.

Night Shift

Under a late spring moon, I wonder when you will come
slip in beside me; between skin-heated sheets, you will come

whisper in my ear, vibrating the lobe with the hum
of your lips, a quick, subtle warning that you will come.

I open the door of my being, two mouths that speak
in different tongues, licking at your soul, so you will come

closer than flesh allows — blood pounds through quivering veins.
Blue lines travel down my fingers, knowing you will come

rescue me from the cold, reddened cheeks, wind-burned and raw,
waiting in blustery morning wind for you to come.

I have lain beneath this bare-branched tree for too long.
Loneliness aches, easily forgetting that you will come.

Until I relax, the strain is like a car rolling over my chest;
breathless, I gasp, seizing up, tightening as you come.

The moment when I stop breathing, close my eyes and float
through the slow darkness of the spinning room, you will come.

Under the early spring sun, white petals spread themselves wide,
their siren song grasping the bees, they say, “You will come.”

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