The Taj by Sascha Feinstein
Like most “last breath” stories, this one’s a good lie:
how Mumtaz Mahal, still bleeding from childbirth,
pulled Shah Jahan to her mouth, begged for
a temple in her memory. How he based the dome
on the curve of her breast. How, when she dies,
he turns gray overnight. We know she’s entombed
twenty-two years later, that he’s deposed
by his son and—every guide will tell you this—
imprisoned in Agra Fort so he’ll die overlooking the Taj.
It’s a death sentence, too, for the dream of a bridge
and a perfect shadow in black marble. Instead—
and this fact’s true as death—he’s buried
beside his wife, breaking absolute symmetry
for another form of perfection. Even in India,
our greatest love stories are never quite enough.
“The Taj” by Sascha Feinstein from Ajanta’s Ledge (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2012). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Sascha Feinstein is a poet, essayist, and editor. His books include two collections of poetry, Ajanta’s Ledge and Misterioso (winner of the Hayden Carruth Award), two memoirs, Wreckage: My Father’s Legacy of Art & Junk and Black Pearls: Improvisations on a Lost Year (now available from Carnegie Mellon University Press); a collection of interviews, Ask Me Now: Conversations on Jazz & Literature; and two related scholarly books, Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present and A Bibliographic Guide to Jazz Poetry. He writes regularly for JAZZIZ magazine. In 1996, he founded Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, which he still edits. He has also co-edited four books: The Jazz Poetry Anthology and The Second Set (both with Yusef Komunyakaa); The Jazz Fiction Anthology (with David Rife); and Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club (with Kathy Sloane). He a is Professor of English at Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA.