Saturday Poem: ‘At the End’ by Maaz Bin Bilal

Illustration by Sadia Tariq circa 2022

How can one ever begin at the end?
—Death is regeneration at the end

Waiz lives piety, prays five times a day
He knows not the joys of sin at the end

How do I sin—I am no Catholic
I will have no confession at the end

I am Muslim but don’t bow at the mosque
Will He give me salvation at the end?

Try but you cannot kill me, I’m Hindu
I have reincarnation at the end

Please bury me next to the synagogue
I too faced crucifixion at the end

The Pharaohs built palatial pyramids
They’d go in style they’d reckon at the end

Don’t burn, don’t bury, sink me in the sea
Maaz, no commemoration at the end

–by Maaz Bin Bilal
Notes: Waiz, in Urdu from Arabic, means preacher, homilist, adviser, admonisher, exhorter. Maaz is my takhallus (penname), from Arabic, and means asylum, refuge.
from Rattle #84, Summer 2024

Maaz Bin Bilal (from the conversation): “Poetry exists even in our cinema, for example, as most of our films, especially until recently, used to be musicals, so all the film songwriters are often poets from Urdu, which is my mother tongue. Urdu ghazals, which are derived from Persian ghazals, and which in turn are derived from Arabic ghazals, are sung often and set to music. As I was growing up in my own house, my father would often play the ghazal genre of music on the record or cassette player. So Urdu poetry, and film songs also, which are derived from particularly Urdu poetry and ghazals, were all around me. … [W]hile growing up, the ghazal was the kind of poetry that I was most in tune with. I soaked in the rhythms, the rhymes, the ideas.”