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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Two Poems for the Shortening Days


My God

Lord of a heaven far away from me there

near to me here

I pray to you there, pray to you here.

Five decades ago there

it was tuneful Azan rang in my right ear

and eight years ago here

I chanted the same Azan

in my new-born baby’s right ear

and showered his cheeks with tears -

one stranger here comforts another.

Mother watches behind a curtain of tears and feels pity for us here

and an astonished midwife with an open mouth gasps:

What on earth are they doing here?

What is he mumbling in the baby’s ear?

dawn, noon, afternoon

sunset and night

each time I pray to the Lord who granted us love, grace and blessing

and poured the light and sap of life into our bodies.

I pray for tranquillity to overwhelm my soul

for the right guidance to flow over all the people in the world.

I pray for mercy to fill my heart

for happiness to rise from my eyes.


I returned to the neighbourhood mosque

and recognised some faces that bid farewell to me years ago

and my father’s wasn’t amongst them;

but a corner where he used to pray, perfumed with his breath,

invited me.

I knelt down low and repeatedly pressed my forehead

on what fell from his spirit there

and offered him my tears

and recited the opening verse of the Holy Quran by his grave

for a long time.

I cried for him and also cried for my mourning soul.


in the mosques of the land of frost

I met people who came from all over the world.

Like a rug of a thousand colours

We’ve been unfolded behind the Imam,

a flower from each garden, each has their own tongue

But there is only one language for prayer.

Glorify, saying God is great

for the nation praying to the Lord

who sat on the throne of heaven there

and who sits on the throne of heaven here.

Iyad Hayatleh

‘Prayer’ translated by Iyad Hayatleh with Tessa Ransford.

* * * * * *

The Three Crows

I could recall a nursery rhyme

for one of those,

but not for the three that swooped

between red sandstone tenements

like harbingers.

Magpies are simple:

one for sorrow, two for joy

three for…a crow times three is

darkness threescore:

one for simply being

two for an accomplice, and

three for three’s a crowd.

But in that dip and dive

like the invisible curve of lives

that moves through time’s memory game,

comes a flash of colour:

the rainbow’s elusive sheen on feathers,

something to grasp

before the light changes.

Nalini Paul

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