Today Was a Holiday / Azra Abbas

A AbbasOne arm hangs limp and empty,

the other bends under a load

One foot has gone to sleep

the other half itches for the road

Half my body nodes in a dream

the other half holds a wake

I sold for pennies my inheritance

Spent one half of the life’s take

and put the other half in a bag

I left the door unlatched, threw

a cloth over the dusty panes,

swore roundly at my floundering days and nights

then let one half-awake body

make love to another half-asleep


Translated from Urdu by C.M. Naim – Tablet and Pen, Edited by Reza Aslan

Azra Abbas was born in 1948 in Karachi. She earned her master’s degree in Urdu from Kara­chi University and went on to teach Urdu literature at a government college in Karachi. Eventually, she and her husband, the poet and novelist Anwar Sen Rai (who works for the BBC), moved to England, where she currently resides. In 1981, her first work was published, comprising a long feminist prose poem in the stream-of-consciousness form. She has produced three collections of poems and one of short stories, along with an autobiographical narrative. She has also com­pleted a novel.