Monday, November 23, 2009


Verily, I am a Persian miniature, for I am small in stature and all can see over me if they bend down. Furthermore, I have border, a border of thorns and acanthus leaves, at least that is what they tell me has caused my wounds and they are cunningly fashioned, so much so that the cunning oozes out of their pores and is lost to the moon. Such borders as these are next to nothing. The void rubs their shoulders and the small shreds of paper tissue that flutter from the colophon know that the space is enclosed and that the space is called Paradise.
When I awake each morning it is morning and the sun is not real, for its rays have never given up the search for the Ultimate truth and Shams sings songs for me as he weaves them together. He gathers them up and hangs them upon the boughs of the Peacock Angel. There are no names for these songs as there are no names, it was ever so and I touch them with the forefingers of my hands extended and I call them what they are and Shams calls them and Shams is a cup of wine and the cup of wine spills onto the grass before I call it and disappears.
In Tabriz there was one such as this, excepting that she had never left her garden and her melons would not speak, nor would they comb her ebony hair, for it was not straight and could not be bent into the meter. She looked into the river and the river was her eyes and her eyes flowed down to the sea but the sand refused to follow her to a citadel where the sun could not be seen and the vultures perched upon their cubes waited for natrium to emerge from her soil.
When the beasts come to me, they come as one unto a brother who has not known his mother and must relate his provenance while spitting the seeds of dates through his teeth. When these seeds are piled high they are called calendars and from them, the age of the firmament is measured for the whole of an hour and the sky beckons. I name the beasts. They step upon the calendars and time stops still. No more will they call me brother for I know what they are and when I call to them next it will be as one who has eaten the wind but will not be fulfilled and I shall never cut my nails in memory of them.
There are fires in Yazd. They burn the sky perpetually but do not consume it. Their tenders wear masks and do not breathe before them, for to draw in the breath of fire is to consume infinity and their stomachs are kufic and will not be turned to any other purpose. Once a young boy placed a stick in such a fire. His hand blazed into a pomegranate tree and thereafter he could only see in shades of black and white. All around him believed in a miracle until the winter came and the pomegranates became the eyes of a peacock and his hand was seen in many dark places where the peaches reign.
I have not eaten, for my mouth is closed and my nostrils know no lust. I console the contortions of roses upon their stakes and bow before the flowering of the aubergine and the whispering of the rice, which leaves its marks upon my lips. I call to them and they do not answer, for their mouths too are clothed and know no lust, save that they leave themselves before me and go about their business, They have no names and their footsteps are golden for the winged ones protect them with their stings.
In Nineveh a lion was killed. The people of the city say it was their king who did this, for he protruded from behind the walls, sword in hand, wearing the lion's mane. Some say that in years to come, his face will be blasted off the walls by the lightning of a foreign race and then it will become known that giants once ruled the land. But those who say this have blood on their jaws and eyes that are yellow. They will not look upon their countrymen in the face and upon their foreheads there is a mark from the impression of a reed.
When I look upon the waters at noon, I see the Peacock Angel flagellating himself with reeds for they must suffer on my behalf and my back is streaked with blood and a leaf caresses my shoulders and I know not the touch of silk for the mulberries have turned their heads away from me. I call to them and they do not answer, for my hands are as yet untrammeled and they cannot see my tears for the water and the water has heard them walking in the garden and is afraid of them.
In Urfa the stones cannot be moved, for upon them is inscribed protection. The fish know this and that is why they are sacred. They bear the marks of the stones upon their fins and it is death to all of those who would eat them, for the water is dead and it goes nowhere; it died in childbirth and there is no burial shroud for it that does not bear the mark of the stone and all recognise this and shudder, for in all of Urfa there is no linen with which to wipe their faces and they wipe them upon stones until they are smooth and polished, like marble.
In the evening, shadows call. They fill the clearings with their footsteps and the holes where the shrieks of peacocks have been left unguarded. Their footsteps shed hair and fur that covers the skin when it is touched and once touched it will never let go, not even at the behest of the cork tree which sheds itself continuously and floats upon dew. There shall be fur upon the moon tonight. The sun can see it and it is red and I am red and I am the waning son.
In Konya there is no need for a moon. All faces are pale and they circle the earth concentrically and the earth counts their revolutions and withdraws its waters for a time. There people count their wealth and inscribe it in books, for as long as these books survive, such wealth cannot be lost and they can all recite the ninety nine names of the sun but none of them have ever heard of the Peacock Angel.
The Peacock Angel sings to me for he has extinguished the sun and I cannot read what is written upon the moon, for such sounds have no name. There was a place for me in this darkness even before the rising of the sun though I cannot remember it and the earth has its own purpose for me, which is cold and moist. I can see the moon with my eyes and the moon has bristles. I will sing a song to these bristles that has no name and I will use my talons as a plectrum before I leave the palm trees and follow the feathers that have fallen from the sky.
In Usak, Usta Vasil the cobbler spent his daughter's dowry on sheets of the supplest leather for he was to fashion shoes for the Padishah such as never had been worn before but the next day he was never seen again. Some said this was because when Usta Vasil took the shoes to the Padishah, he saw that his feet were cloven and he ran away in fear and others say that there never was a Padishah and that Usta Vasil walked a very long way and his shoes were not exhausted though his feet, which were cloven, crumbled into the dust that is picked up on the wayside these days as a protection against curses, though they will not ever say why this is so.
I call upon the sun and from the soil there rises such a scent of rose water you would think that roses have been crushed into the soil. She rises before me, the perfume of my blood and I adorn her with eyes and she draws back and shuns my embrace. She accuses me of falling in love with her messenger and the stars fall, the bees are enraged and I am turned without the walls and wash my clothes in the waters of my tears and spread them out to dry in the glow of her radiance. And there are peacock feathers on my eyes and peacock feathers in my hands but the Peacock Angel is nowhere to be seen and the peacocks within the gate shriek that they are the Door and the Door is shut.
In Kostantiniyye there will come a time when the half-cooked fish will one day jump out of the water. The monks will catch them in their frying pans and eat them and then, they will spit out my bones upon the page.

First published in NKEE on 23 November 2009