Love Beyond Measure

• Potter
• Swimmer
• Adulterer
• Legend

• Merchant
• Cowherd
• Adulterer
• Legend

The crucible of their life-destroying
Soul- affirming love
melts the dross
of their everyday lives.

When Sohni was born
The fates give three gifts
• Beauty
• Artistry
• And to love without measure
An over- potent trinity.

Beautiful, but too early dead
Gifted, but too early dead
Beloved, but too early dead

Immortal in song, music
and film
but still too early dead
Legends are comfortless things
to those who are the stuff of it.

Now here's a strange thing
The merchant Beg (later Mahiwal)
wealthy and married
was mad with love for Sohni
Before they'd even met
Ensnared by her pots
The silken glazes
The sensuous female shapes.

When he finds her,
Mahiwal, completely defenceless,
cannot conceal the fire
that devours him.

Sohni, disconcerted
By this stranger
Whose burning gaze
scorches her
does not respond
For her
there are no arrows or thunderbolts
Just a deep unease
Dare we say it?
He ever so slightly
creeps her out.
From merchant to mendicant
Layer after layer
remorselessly peeled-
wealth, status, dignity.
Mahiwal barely notices
This stripping down
to the raw, vulnerable
kernel of his being.
It is this pared down creature
that Sohni grows to love.

In distant Bokhara
Mahiwal's family await his return
But Izzat Beg never comes
It maybe love beyond measure
For Sohni and Mahiwal
But what about those
They have hurt
beyond forgiveness?
Never before has
the callousness of love
Been so apparent
Its unfairness
and sheer carelessness.

While people slept
Sohni swam
to her lover
on the other side of the river

How could this be?
How could these eager couplings
after exhilarating swims and feasts of
roast fish
the selfish disregard
of others’ feelings
be the lightning path
to divine love?
and freedom from earthly ties?

The pot - deep bellied
an ancient shape
as ancient as the earth
from which it was shaped.
It’s the womb.
It’s fertility and fragility.
Sohni – maker of these pots
will never make these symbols her reality
Will never bear a child
Although she pots the womb shapes
again and again and again

Perfect buoys
they keep her afloat
on her midnight swims
to meet her lover
on the other side of the river.

Until one desperate night
her sister-in-law –
stealthy, watchful, deadly
switches pots

The indigo silk storm clouds
brocaded by gold lightning
and silver sheets of rain
roared and flashed their warning.
Even the moody Chenab river
unwilling to engulf her
asks the fish
to tell Sohni to turn back
Nature – cold and furious
was reluctant to drown
this slender, unusual,
determined girl
who swam while others slept.

She gave them no choice really
she had none herself.
If she turned back
she would betray love itself
so she swam
while her flawed, treacherous pot
slowly, grittily crumbles.

A perfect balance.
The water pulls her under
inexorable, inescapable
Sohni grows ever more composed.
No flailing limbs
or gasping of ragged breath
in a futile fight for life.
But a serene, cross-legged descent
into the swirling, noisy river

Death is the honoured guest
greeted with poise and courtesy.
Mahiwal soon follows

River, flame, fish and pot
bubbles glugging in and out
all whispering the same thing
Sohni and Mahiwal are dead

The jealous sister-in-law
now custodian
of the legend,

like the Ancient Mariner
is bound to repeat it again and again
to shrive her soul
and keep
Sohni and Mahiwal -
flawed sinners, perfect lovers,
forever alive.