poems by Yusra Usmani



A man needs something outside of his comprehension to revere, or else he makes an idol out of his own intelligence. The absurdity of a God who’s both the first and last; the manifest and hidden; the creator and destroyer, is necessary for this reason. The excess of religious art and architecture thrills the mind, excites the senses, and overwhelms the logical faculties. This way, providence can touch the spirit, which is taken immediately and entirely.

If poetry is for the same ends, the same means are required: it should be spectacular, meaning an inherently complicated drama is reduced to its associated sounds, symbols, and sensations, which then take on a life of their own. The mind is thus filled with a lurid and disorienting perfume, and with its guard down, the spirit is captured.



In the beginning there was the word,

and the word was with God,

And the word was God,

And seeking self-expression he invested himself in the hearts of poets

And the poet employs the power invested in him to thrill the hearts of men

And the poet has accepted his role as a mouthpiece, he disregards himself in service to what is beyond

And the poet’s vision isn’t seen by others, his necessity not understood. He subjects himself to this effacement, exhausting himself of all power, keeping loyal to his mission as he remains incomprehensible

And despite the poet’s torments

And despite the poet’s loneliness

He stands tall and speaks with a loud voice

He is a soldier, martyr, and prophet

He rejoices and recites with authority

For God has chosen the poet’s ministry





My heart was too ravenous to only want happiness. All of man burns in me—I put my white feet on his beaming forehead and I’ll not leave until he charges me full with the charge of humanity.

Tambourines, cymbals, trumpets and flutes

As I turn up, people will come

To roll the front of my tomb

Then we’ll celebrate

With feasts and festivities

And over the brimming plate

My head will lean heavily

Firm on the highest stand

I’ll take my stationed place

And rap my solemn hands

As the endless drummer plays

What is there for me?

As I preach from my chest

My fill is away

By a single hair’s breadth

Tambourines, cymbals, trumpets and flutes

As I turn up, people will come

To roll the front of my tomb

Will one plough be enough for my wants? At twenty, a time for anxious hopes and dreams— there’ll be many sighs and sobs as new labours are set forth in front of me.




First daughter tots good and well

So father thanks God for deliverance from strife

All without knowing what terror collects

In the centre of his wife

Another generation will make way for new sin

Brains blackened and blue

Bad blood runs under painted skin

Here’s a gift from the sovereign too:

Brought down to their proud feet

And beaten well with the blows of reproach

I’m sent towards a loathsome beast

To whom I’m already known

With the new and obscure verse

Which even the devil pales from

As I mumble an incoherent curse

Out of my lapping tongue

He’ll watch the flames as they swell

On this fated stage tonight

And experience what ecstasy dwells

In the heart of this androgyne

The armies that riot in you

Have already gone through me

I’ve heard their heavy boots

And I’ve seated them at my knees

All of man takes place in me

I’m the male; I’m his wife

All wrong-doing is my doing

All praise is mine

I’ll have delusion as my God

I’ll catch the muse naked

I’ll be an opera hall

I’ll make my disorder sacred



That steaming afternoon

Where at each turn an ambush awaits;

The station filled with brutes

Walking dead in the hour of day

Contorting my brows in pain,

Having a face painted

I raise my tough voice

For the choir of God’s creation

My infamous hand, my relentless deed

Am I done with my due—

For the delirious height open to me

And the life we’re condemned to?

poems by Yusra Usmani

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