Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems

Title: Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems

Author: Afsar Mohammad

Translator: Afsar Mohammad & Shamala Gallagher

Publisher: Red River

Across from the Char Minar

You see how one butterfly
left us a trace of its colour,
before killing itself
on this busy street.

Here one thousand people,
one then the other
crossed and walked on
without even looking. 

Any afternoon, when the sun
smiles like a white flower
on the head of the Char Minar,
just walk straight into his look.

It’s not so hard
to pour one look into
an ever-burning oven,
a house of molten sights.

Here where the butterfly forgot
its colour and flew off into the dark,
stay and stare straight into life.     
Tell me how it looks.

The thousand people who walked,
limped, and ran by this road
told me at least a thousand lies
but in innocent tongues. 

Another Word

At the end of crying out, 
my word is a dwarf. 

How long can I live on a dwarf? 

The tear that sang before my beginning
never leaves me a gasp of shore. 

I can’t become your sea or sky. 

I am just a tearlet
beneath your eye. 

The drop 
that can swallow a desert.  

In the Middle of the Poem

The line gasps, interrupted. 
Quick gulp of silence. 
Someone pants at the rear. 

The road flies back. 
A scene flits past,
along with the footsteps. 
Silence has so many faces. 

Someone walks on either side,
hazy, indistinct. 
Someone sighs behind the shoulder. 
The poem stops. 

A Rain Lost in Hyderabad

Since there is nothing like evening here,
I just dream an evening
in every bit of my sleep.

When the trees erase their shades,
when the sky dries out its final sunshine,
a cold wave scoops me.

I rush to my nest and hide in its wings
before the dark night takes me.


Never know if this was raining since morning
or just began this noon.
The lives that unfurl in the noons
don’t know morning breezes.

Getting up past noon,
I realise the alarm was tired
of alarming me and sighed itself off.

I am best at reading time
in reverse.


I am the crooked one

who is born when all the rains and winters
lose their hope of moving.


Hyderabad is my altered self —

a dreamless sleep,
a sleepless dream,

awaking slipped under a nap. 

(Excerpted from Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems by Afsar Mohammad, translated from the Telugu by Afsar Mohammad & Shamala Gallagher. Published by Red River, 2022)

About the book

Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems volume brings together, for the first time in English translation (translated by the poet in collaboration with Shamala Gallagher) the selected, and often groundbreaking poetry of the celebrated Telugu poet Afsar Mohammad, known for his trendsetting poetry and literary criticism in the post-1980s Telugu literary culture. Beside an erudite translator’s note from Gallagher, Evening with a Sufi also contains two in-depth essays on Afsar Mohammad’s poetry by David Shulman and Cheran Rudhramoorthy, plus an interview with the poet by poet and translator Rohith.

About the Author

Born in a small village in the South Indian state of Telangana, Afsar Mohammad now teaches South Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Known as a trendsetting poet and literary critic in the post-1980s Telugu literary culture, Afsar has published five volumes of poetry, one collection of short stories and two volumes of literary theory essays. Afsar is also a distinguished scholar of Indian studies and has published extensively with various international presses, including Oxford and Cambridge. He is now working on a translation of Sufi poetry from Telugu to English. He can be reached at

About the translator

Shamala Gallagher is a mixed-race Indian American writer, community college teacher, and mother to a preschooler. She is the author of a poetry collection, Late Morning When the World Burns (The Cultural Society, 2019), and her writing has been published in several literary journals, including Poetry, Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, and the Missouri Review. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Athens, Georgia, USA with her family and cats.

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