Ghazals by Steffen Horstmann

As Agha Shahid Ali's student, Steffen Horstmann studied the history of the ghazal form and began writing his own ghazals in English. Horstmann's poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout the world, including Baltimore Review, Free State Review, Istanbul Literary Review, Louisiana Literature, Oyez Review, Texas Poetry Journal and Tiferet. In 2016 he published a book of English ghazals, Jalsaghar.
Steffen Horstmann


This defunct hotel, you & I were here once−
& danced beneath a turning chandelier once.

Glasses sparkled, whose rims memorized lips ...
I remember secrets whispered in my ear once.

It seemed to hold a pearl's texture & weight,
Rolled slowly down your face−a tear, once.

I wander a beach undone by weather, storms
Heard in a seashell pressed to the ear once.

Lightning flashed in a charcoal sky,
Clouds in which I saw your face appear once.

[Falling boulders storm a gorge]

Falling boulders storm a gorge
Into which a runaway train fell.

Floating dust sparkles in the sinkhole
Into which a construction crane fell.

Spears of wheat shoot from a crevice
Into which kernels of grain fell.

Flames gallop through fields of maize
Into which a spinning biplane fell.

Spheres of light stream from the grave
Into which the body of Cain fell.

Nomads emerge from mirages
Into which a glittering rain fell.

Winds howl in fields where knights
In the Cimbrian campaign fell.

Rain spiraled upward in the hurricane
Through which a plane fell.