“The Sailor cannot see the North—but knows the Needle can—”
The books were all torn apart, sliced along the spines
Light filled all the openings that she in her silence renounced
Still: her handwriting on the papers remembered us to her
The careful matching of the papers’ edges was a road back
One night Muhummad was borne aloft by a winged horse
Taken from the Near Mosque to the Far Mosque
Each book likens itself to lichen,
stitching softly to tree trunks, to rocks
what was given into the Prophet’s ears that night:
A changing of directions—now all the scattered tribes must pray:
Wonder well foundry, well sunborn, sundered and sound here
Well you be found here, foundered and found.
You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s
nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?
If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.
Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,
the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—
The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—
You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind —
Kazim Ali (Croydon, 6 april 1971)