Today's poem is by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Qasida of 700,000 Years of Love

So Death's muscle was pulp, a breeze past a
dandelion. Its hold frost, a weak clam
gripping me when the Honda fell
into a crater off the interstate.
True, the last breath was thin as a veil caught
in thorns but it was swift and I entered
Iblis's study. No river of pus,
lava or honey, no plank to walk but
the punishment of another journey:
seven hundred thousand years of service.

How Iblis loved God before the cosmos,
before our polished clay, our high brow, our
delicious sin. It must have been Isha
time on Earth. His room in the swirling
infinity was a closed tulip, a
peeling thing with heavy petals, windows
open with desire for the One who
teaches love even to moss, scale, concrete.
I hung from the windows, dangling in
Eternity, a prowler, playing the

role of an extra where Iblis absorbed
all energies in prayer: a magnet
for the Nocturnal garden, swarmed
with delicate scents. I hung like a thief
for his purity, and crept like an ape,
a vine, onto his roof. My town must by
this time be encircled by the amber rim
of dawn, Fajr, plush, tranquil, unrolling the
day. Iblis, through the cracks, was a glowing
ton of fire, immeasurably at peace,
knotted in prayer as a fruit blossom,

a perfumed navel, a fetus, impenetrable.
I hovered like a bomber's shadow; sun,
a lemon in the sky and earth a wheat
grain. How could I not recall the fragrance
of bread, the gusts of wind that came with trains,
the arrivals; Zuhr my most hungry time.
His posture in prayer made me long
to wipe the tears of red-cheeked geishas,
orphans of war, those tied up, spat upon.

Seven hundred thousand years of loving
God. I could not make it from Zuhr to Asr
without pangs. Every birdsong sewed me in
to the coarse cloth of the sufi's resolve.
With Maghrib came the sound of the key
turning in the lock, the lust of repose.
I clung to his study like a spider web
watching Iblis the steady servant with
his quietude, windows burnished with divine
light. Garlanded with lint, I looked below.

Notes: In the Islamic tradition, Iblis was a devout jinn, a creature made of smokeless fire, who worshipped God for 700,000 years before Adam was created. He disobeyed God by refusing to bow before Adam and from then onwards became "Shaitaan" or Satan, the evil one. Some Sufis view his refusal as an act of extreme devotion to the beloved rather than disobedience.

Isha: Night-time prayer
Fajr: Pre-dawn prayer
Zuhr: Early afternoon prayer
Asr: Late afternoon prayer
Maghrib: Evening prayer

Copyright © 2017 Shadab Zeest Hashmi All rights reserved
from Ghazal Cosmopolitan
Jacar Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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