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Published: Mon Oct 15 1984
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
AGNI 21 AGNI 56 Nature Youth Family
The Season of the Plains

In Kashmir where the year
has four clear seasons, my mother
spoke of her childhood

in the plains of Lucknow, and
of that season in itself,
the monsoon, when Krishna’s

flute is heard on the shores
of the Jamuna. She played old records
of the Banaras thumri-singers,

Siddheshwari and Rasoolan, their
voices longing, when the clouds
gather, for that invisible

blue god. Separation
can’t be borne when the rains
come: this every lyric says.

While children run out
into the alleys, soaking
their utter summer,

messages pass between lovers.
Heer and Ranjha and others
of legends, their love forbidden,

burned incense all night,
waiting for answers. My mother
hummed Heer’s lament

but never told me if she
also burned sticks
of jasmine that, dying,

kept raising soft necks
of ash. I imagined
each neck leaning

on the humid air. She only
said: The monsoons never cross
the mountains into Kashmir.

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Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001) was a Kashmiri-American poet. He received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, and the New York Foundation of the Arts, among others.

Ali’s A Nostalgist’s Map of America was reviewed in AGNI 39 by Christopher Davis.

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