Rizwan Akhtar works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English,
Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial
literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems
in well-established poetry magazines of the UK, Wales, US, India, Canada, and
New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek
Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.

You Crossed My Way

You walk passages like ceremonies
a cult is concentric in those glares
on a moped floor where sounds die
when wind spills intentions crammed
In mid-day loneliness of my room soaked
in bookish nonsense of ignoring you
I am bound to make a detour next time
do not cross my way with this peace
in your body hampering my projects.

The Boot Polish Man

Under a tree a sturdy Khan sits
with the awe of an empire
set to rule the heart of his clients

with trappings of his boot polishing
hands carrying blackened fissures
palms spattered with waxen grime

I grew up watching him rubbing toes;
on a tattered mat his hands flow
lyrically picking from tin wax boxes

mere scrubbing after laces are taken out
goes on and on before a stubborn shine
appears above the dusty edges of heels

the bristled cacophony of brushes
elbows fling like an opera's maestro
with a modified damp foam he buffs

the reluctant parts, how each stroke
defines the sweating arm of his faith
over glossy upper front invoking

vanities in his watchful customers
waiting for their turn patiently
I see him doggedly skimming wax

for a grudging battle of brushes.
When I miss a day because of rain
or traffic makes me detour my paths

shoes stay in my feet sad and swatting
I coax my son but he fumbles
between a disposed towel and a brush

too heavy for his soft fingers
but in this scattered labor I see
a mute recognition in each pair.

Prohibited to Touch You

they were hidden in dying sunlight
circles around your lips
a pouted patch touched by age
You—surviving like words on a page—
delicately curl without intentions
wanting to freak me in a passage
it's small effort to make me think
shining stars and distant analogies
a wrinkled cosmos on forehead—
a prohibited room of imagination
not a battle for silence
just eyes trapped behind doors
But in fact, I haven't even come close
to you. At least, I want to.


outside a crow whines the whole afternoon, the day
surrenders its share of silence to screeching roads
soiled by their contribution ears bag stones
suddenly a vehicle adds to my monastic veneer
crumbling behind flat regularity of vendors yelling
from all sides flanking a patched figure of beggar
hypnotized by heat and a staggering bowl, I
waste a few steps throwing gestures with coins.

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