Using vivid imagery, raw emotion and superb writing, Fiza Pathan’s forty-four poems selected in The Flame Will Always Burn take us inside the heart of a young woman who is totally, irrevocably traumatized by a first experience of love transformed into utter disaster. It is not a pleasant sight, not easy to stomach, but needed to be written not only as a soul’s cry for help but also as heroic self-help and a desire to help others. Some of the titles like “Love Comes with a Knife”, “Your Reeking Flesh” and “They Found Me in a Pool of Blood” have vicious content but here are some gentler samples: In the opening poem “My Two Hearts” Pathan writes, “When this poor heart of mine is set on fire By infidelity and sudden awakened heartbreak, Then what’s there in a drink or two To abate the end of my world? I will not forget this laceration in my chest, Forever shall I remember my eternal grief. Someone who has given me this wound in my soul Has also handed me a glass of strong wine. Wounds of the soul don’t get healed in a year or two As they remain like fungus around a loving red heart. Therefore how I wish I had two hearts, One for the bottle and the other for the balm.” On page 21, the title poem “The Flame Will Always Burn” says, “My charming lover, please return to this fire so scorching To call out your promises again and again and again. There is this distance and there is a sea that separates us, But these smouldering lips of mine still cry out In the twilight hour for you.” By page 37, in “I Sing My Guitar to Sleep”, she obsesses, “I try to sing the song I wrote for you, But the silence echoes as I, the mad one, cut Each of the instrument’s strings with a scissor. The tune resonates where there is no noise, The tune is quiet in the midst of my screams of terror. I strip out ribbons from my flesh and string it to my guitar. They sound so sweet like the melting snow running into gentle waters. The notes of music so divine press me on and on Until my senses are no more. Tired and weary without hope for your love, I sing my guitar to sleep entwined in the obsessional note.” The Flame Will Always Burn holds potions of rage, pain, addiction, self-loathing, murder, suicide, intoxication, infatuation and outrageousness but ends on page 90 with a plea. In the history of medicine and literature, the disease of love sickness has baffled doctors and poets. Pathan’s poems are a major contribution towards understanding it more thoroughly and comforting its millions of sufferers.
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