World Split Apart

We’re living in a time of great cruelty and heartlessness, where instead of a sun they’re throwing up anvils. Instead of sunlight there’s the sound of hammers beating. Instead of walking there’s kicking. Instead of thinking there’s talking.

It’s almost as if there’ve never been times like these before. Even shadows thrown by cartwheels on dirt roads resemble the grimaces of armies as they slide across rocks. In the palaces of power clocks go off but no one wakes. Decisions are made by pouring acid down drains or waiting for nightfall in a room lit by neon tubes.

If anyone speaks all eyes are upon them. I saw a sparrow fly over a fence. An ant stop and not go on. But laughter has turned to pebbles falling on zinc. And children have been torn from their futures

A gigantic wheel rolls down sorrow’s enormous corridor aclattering as if to challenge with grief its mere invention as the era of slaughter, though it doesn’t matter. I can’t find my eyes among the rubble

As she saw bombs burst into her backyard she saw birds burst into flower. As he bit into the sandwich of death he saw blazing armies of angels ride down a distant hill. As they played in a circle holding hands for the last time, the wide-eyed children felt a geyser of silver light lift them into heaven.

Rotors and rollers across house roofs, and voices became symphonic variations with bells and xylophones in the ears of their dwellers. A scream took the shape of a blue phoenix shot upward over a now desolate restaurant in a golden display of unfolding fire, in whose heat vibrations you can see all the dead in their prime getting ready for the grand fiesta.

Faced with no alternative, the cornered soap seller sang his favorite aria from Verdi opening his vest button by button and his mouth at last over a gulf of silence.

The last bird out ofthe city kept the sun on her right as she wheeled to a nearby pasture, its light on her feathers flashing an SOS to no one. Though God saw it and exclaimed His Name to Himself in the constant midst of our mortal conflagration.

In the midst of bomb blast, how can I raise my glass to praise the Face ofthe one I love?

No tears, nor beads of sweat, no anguish tortures its pure expression, its moonlight cast on cornfield equally as on crash and catastrophic collapse on bodies below as vulnerable as mine. Horses and grandmothers, babies and bystanders caught in the crush.
Whole countries cracked up, yet a bee nearby gets pollen on its legs and buzzes home.

Light fills my window the same as Kabah wall and Medina Tomb, whose inner galactic glow showers a ray out on the world that refuses its healing balm or tortures it to be what it’s not.

My loved one doesn’t need my praise, nor even to be less inscrutable than usual in these circumstances, and still shows the way. So I say “To this One there is no other (mother brother father sister), none to claim us but proclaim us as we proclaim in lifted liquor to our lips our love, excruciating as it is.”

Yet a feather blown by it floats in the air. And remains there

The façade of a building falls away and reveals a man praying. A bakery loses its showwindow showing a hundred weddings who’ll have to wait in the next world for their cakes. An Orthodox cathedral split in two revealing a solemn baptism that’s now become more like a drowning. A synagogue smashed like the tablets of Moses, the dust of theTorah continuing to rise for years through the lunar cycles. A medieval mosque’s minaret struck into rubble and the muezzin’s call going out bodiless a hundred times louder.

The road rutted with machinegun fire, and ghost cows dancing with their dazzled cowherds. Trees just coming into bud turning as black as pokers, their fruit both present and future now gracing the fresh tables of the dead. Hillsides turning as black as ash, revealing lairs of tiny mammals tremblingly shielding their young.

This earth sliced apart like a unripe melon revealing both incandescent fury and radiant secrets of redemption incomprehensibly intertwined. No one returning with a happy face at the end of the day, or followed by children like the Pied Piper to safety beyond the rocks.

The soul of man split asunder at the first crack of unjust death and unjust retaliation, revealing a person naked, drenched in original water, coming toward us surrounded by anticipatory angels anxious for an outcome already known to Him who benignly created us, and Whose Voice rises inaudibly above all other voices, saying over and over the single word: Peace.

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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