Only the Crows

'Only the crows' image

'Only the crows' image

Derrick J. Night, who writes everyday about his incredibly plenteous garden, weaves subtle symbols and imagery in the titles and subjects of his photo-filled posts. Yesterday, I was struck by the title of his post, ‘Only the Crows‘, the moment I saw it. It had such a poetic ring about it, I couldn’t restrain myself from writing a ghazal, hackneyed as it may read. Not that Derrick did not live on the promise of those words in his brooding, photographic discourse. Mine is just an afterthought and a shadow of what haunts many among us.


The wind moans at my window like a ghost, only the woes;
There are tears in the blue vase. No, not only the rose.

The striptease of desires cheats the night like a hooker,
With whom silken tresses weave a dream? Only the foes.

Damned be the evening when you first felled the taboo,
I am yet to burn the purdah baring none, only the toes.

Crying hoarse by the riverside a god fell off his pedestal,
Who are you, but a man, who spins nothing, only the shows.

Rotting on the highway, you’ve been slain by the guardians;
Uma, none will stop to touch your flesh, only the crows.


  1. This is simply beautiful Uma Shankar and I’m disappointed you thought it may be “hackneyed “. To be inspired by a fellow blogger to write something so meaningful is remarkable
    Dare I ask who the God is who fell off the pedestal and why?

    1. Thank you, Shubha, for reading and supporting my whimsical strains. I said hackneyed because most of those feelings have been expressed before by true poets and seers of the art, much more hauntingly that I can ever dream of. As for the god that fell off the pedestal, there are things that are best said through silence rather than eloquence.

  2. do ghazals always have to be sad Umashankar ji ? but then like that old song says ” hai sabse madhur wo geet jinhe hum dard ke sur me gatey hai ” – this one is beautiful but sad…

  3. First of all, I greatly admire your ability to “stretch the rules”. Only someone who can drive can break the road rules and stay alive! So take that as a compliment! I refer to the rhymes at the end of the lines rather than the repetition of the word “crows”. It was excellent!

    Secondly, this is the most “Indian” of you ghazals. Every image conjured up a sub-continental picture in my mind. It happened naturally and I’m not sure why.

    Thirdly, the poem builds up powerfully to the final stanza, which is quite fearful – like a leper. Rather than each bead being part of a necklace (as Agha Shahid Ali suggests)
    this ghazal is more like an inuksuk gaining in height and dimensions as it grows. I would stop to touch, but after all that had gone before I would be afraid!

    1. Bruce, of late I’ve been living in a consuming dread that the ink in my pen may have dried up for ever. The symptoms have been there aplenty, suspended before my mind’s eye like insistent floaters. So it is lesser and lesser that my pen is inclined to scribble, but at times it does that it seems to have a mind of its own. Worse, it seems to have a heart too, that races and trills as it pleases. I had vague outlines of a ghazal when I started to write this one, whose lines fell to the refrain of only the crows… each time, but then that wicked thing took over and carried me away. In the end, what you have before you is a slightly tweaked version of the format, for whatever it is worth.
      I agree about the Indianness of the ghazal. Even though the human condition is universal, some of those images are uniquely Indian, especially the one in the matla, and the preceding couplet.
      You taught me a new word today: inuksuk. I like the idea of this piece being an inuksuk rather than a necklace. Perhaps, my pen knew it better and much before you pointed that out. Perhaps that is why it chose not to repeat the crows so that the figure could be completed by the time one is introduced.
      I am grateful for the detailed analysis, and the compliments that may goad me to write yet again.

      1. Dear Uma

        I’ve passed through your age (years)… I’m no better off …. and I’ve come to realize that what I have is what I have… What we both have is priceless… what YOU have is priceless… wisdom came when I realized it doesn’t have a price. What you write I love. Look at it this way” Jane Austen (that formidable genius) couldn’t have had a hope in hell of writing anything that you write…


        1. I’ve been hanging to a flimsy thread of hope. But what you have said gives me the courage to last. Indeed, what we both have is priceless. Thank you, once again, for being there, Bruce!

    1. It is easy to swim past the mellifluous and deceptively simple diction of Derrick J. Knight amidst the dazzle of his exquisite photography. Many thanks for the compliment.

    1. Which means I could get closer to the spirit of ghazals, even though I have violated an important rhyming rule (read Bruce’s comment). Thanks, Inese!

        1. That is so true. It is amazing how a few syllables of ghazals can knock you out. As for the eyes, no other human organ is better equipped to convey sadness than them. The Persian eyes that you speak of, denote longing and quiescence at the same time and we may find them among us every now and then. The geographical region in question is a synonym of suppression however, and a far cry from the now extinct culture.

          1. Extinct, it is true. Humans find pleasure in destroying. It is a statement, a mark they want to leave when the lands change hands – erasing the culture, symbols and language. This is a common practice among humans.

  4. Your poems are so close to the heart, Uma. The visual arts and poetry go hand-in-hand and you’ve brought them together here in a beautiful way.

  5. So poetic! Though I don’t understand the whole of it, what I love is that I must go back and reread lines for the pure joy of the beauty seen, maybe even in pain. Lustrous is that line of human needs. Our hearts give us so much throughout life-amazing they last so long. Thank you. This makes me want to produce more poetic beauty. 🌺

    1. Many thanks for those kind words, Caroline! What you say about the heart is so true –it is an epic and a pilgrimage. Do go ahead with your plans of poetry.

  6. If a bollywood fellow will copy your work, then perhaps he will change crows to dogs. 🙂

    I am no poet and far too ignorant about grammar or structure. However, your poetry and other works makes me think and revisit again and again, whenever I get time.

    The line about God’s falling from the pedestal reminds me the image of Achilles chopping of the head of Sun God Apollo’s statue at the start of Trojan war in Greek mythology. It is said that the Sun God Apollo was holding a bow and arrow (as shown in the hollywood film) and later Achilles dies when an arrow pierces his heel which was his only vulnerable part. So the God’s have their revenge.

    Today, as you say our “God’s are indeed crying hoarse by the riverside” about the plight of mother earth and being pushed off their pedestal by modern politicians who are being equated with Gods. Blinded by their own ego, mere mortals – who don’t even live for a 100 years – have the temerity to call this earth their own. The Gods have tried to open our eyes and have failed, perhaps as spectacularly as their desecration in the hands of man.

    Keep on writing as perhaps you are among the very few who can hear the voice of the fallen Gods.

    1. Sabyasachi, It is an honour to have retained your patronage over the years. I don’t care what the dogs of Bollywood do as long as they don’t steal my humble words. The majority constitutes of crooks who are perfectly capable of descending beyond humanly possible thresholds to make obscene loads of money. Ditto for the false gods we have cursed ourselves with.

  7. Crows seem (to me) to be the physical embodiment of shadows. Your take on this theme is gorgeous and haunting.

  8. You have put it aptly —there is so much more to crows than being being just birds. Your comment has brought much joy to me. Thank you, ever!

  9. I am not much into poetry as you know. But I kind of like form poetry as there is a kind of rhythm to it. Your Ghazals are just too good. It is amazing how you manage to do them. And so philosophical.

    1. I am deeply reassured by your compliment. As for writing them well, I am rather fond of what Hemingway said once: ‘For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.’ 🙂

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