What was Taken at the Diwan-i-‘Am

by Tse Hao Guang

Apart from shots of “engrailed arches”

symmetrical and subdivided by shadow?


Imagined walls and cornices bright as Tilak

ash, the “brilliant chunam” stucco since scraped

off or washed out; “inlaid panels executed

by Austin of Bordeaux,” where a minor jeweler felt

Orpheus move in himself; noble Shah Jahan’s

lost throne: two peacocks behind it studded

with sapphires and diamonds to represent life,

fringe of pearls at the border of the canopy, between

peacocks a parrot carved from single emerald.


A mustached man, check-shirted, mouthing odd

English odd as your own, also alone, another

state, little days leave and computer company

based in Gujarat, wife and two children, uncle

birthday tomorrow, drink? or snack? maybe short

while even tho you make planning to different place

as now we are brothers, do journey together.


Auto-rickshaw. Hindi back and forth. Beer stop.

Innocent park. Couples in sun. “Aajaao on the beach

yaar photo meri khinch / phuti kismat hogi teri gar

tune ye bast na maani.” Synth Bhangra. Can hissed

open. On the tomb of the Shah—“He traveled

to the banquet hall of Eternity the night of the twenty-

sixth of the month Rajab, in the year 1076 Hijri.

Crossed legs. Stranger danger! Rather drowsy.


What was taken at the Diwani-i-‘Am? Nikon

D5100—“Creativity from Any Point of View”; sense

of balance; Seamus Heaney’s New and Selected

“My ghosts come striding into their spring stations”;

passport with affixed visa; patchwork mouse lucky

charm; false audience for vanished king in hollow

audience hall; cool pink sandstone; Persian

poetry on outer arches of neighbouring Diwan-i-Khas,

off-limits to all but archaeologists and courtiers:


If heaven can be on the face of the earth,

it is this, it is this, it is this.

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