Jonathon Penny

Lit-Mag #42 – The Arabian World

Two Poems

Sila, Liwa, Bani Yas

They keep this up, there’ll be no desert left,
No space to wreck, no four-wheel desert cleft
To winnow down: no dry-heave, tinder bone
To let a man be lone.

The death-gasp of the culture that could tear
The banshee shriek of what is drawing near
Is such a modern thing it makes me grin
Like poison: sick of sin.

They keep this up, these mincing, drifting ghosts,
These zebra forms with all their Babel boasts,
They’ll blister from the artificial cold:
The center cannot hold,

The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
The tent is void, the women too demure,
And from the mosques a bitter incense fumes:
It’ll bring them to their tombs.

Lente, lente currite noctis equii (Allahu ackbar)

Given its head, the night runs faster than a man can breathe
Its nostrils pant, its dusky edges heave,
And I am pulled from sleep too soon:
The yellow tones of morning and the morning song
Too early crowed, but not in the cock’s throat.

The call to prayer comes early:
“Our alarm clock,” quipped a friend,
Indicating the humble mosque at his front door.
We have one, too. We all do in this garden city,
This oasis overrun but not yet ruined,

And the mosque with its staggered chorus
Of muezzin fairly owns us, night and day:
There’s hardly time to leave off praying my litany of regrets
From a day spent seeking more help than I had given
Before I’m called back to my knees.

I do not join the sweated worship of the immigrants,
But I think of prayer far more here than ever before,
For God is great indeed, and it is better to pray than sleep,
Even if all one does is pray to sleep a little more
Before the panting night is stabled, brushed, and fed,
And the mu’adhdhin clears his rooster throat.

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