Monday, January 17, 2005

the hand of fatima

once upon a time,
on an occasion barely three weeks after 9/11
(somehow the gestation period is important for a lot of my creativity, my response to what was unfolding around me)
i wrote a poem
in which the hands of fatima were a central motif.
friends (especially women) who are muslim, or have an islamicate cultural reference, have been really moved by it in the past.
i like to think, wishfully, wistfully that what communicates to them is something beyond the death of the author; that the exact moods of heatbreak and renunciation; of horror, and yet getting by that informed the writing of the poem resonate perfectly across space and time to reach those who have the appropriate cultural software embedded to decode it....

i will always be thankful to kaustubh, for coming back from spain with pictures of the hand of fatima on the doorway of a church, especially for me...


And since I always say too much
The words will have to be someone else’s
As usual –
‘Who’s to say where the wind will take you
Who’s to say what it is will break you
I don’t know
Which way the wind will blow’
But I do know that the most beautiful hands
In the world are Fatima’s, and she was the Prophet’s daughter
But that’s not your name

Ali could not be Ali without Fatima
And since (because of her)
He was such a good man
Hussein had to die at Karbala (and seventy one dead and one wounded)
And since Hussein set such a precedent
People would rather die (and kill)
A few thousand at a time
Than suffer injustice

That is so not the story
For once, when the world went wrong around us
And you held my hands in yours
I knew that I could not be Ali and set examples (and the world to rights)
And that I would not be Hussein and sacrifice all that I held dear
But your hands were still Fatima’s
And they knew when to let go

So I have learnt the pleasures of drifting
On the winds that cool the desert nights of the City
And though your hands are Fatima’s -
Hey, it’s been nice knowing you.

Note – ‘the City’ is a literal translation of the Arabic, ‘al Madina’
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