Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Zainabiyah

This is the Zainabiyah.


Dull drumbeat days

Poured orange and black

Dripping days of rope burn

And sweat

The shamed beast carrying her

Low drooped lips scuffing groundward

And grief rolls behind her eyes

Keep itself within itself

Blows have made it so


This tyrant is young like a tack

Grown from poison and blooming hate

This tyrant, sinew and Syrian wine,

Sways with his chemicals and growls

Victory, he says, vengeance

This Book, This Quran, Play things

Of his and the olden tribes

And he snaps in to a stoop

To mock the fallen head

Of her brother, Of Hussain.

She thinks of The Baptist

Snug in his covered mound

See, they put your head on a platter

And The Baptist seems to sigh and turn.


There is not much left of him but trembling

Master of the weight of Shadow

Nothing more than a line of a man

Grasped by thorned collar and hot shackles

Sometimes she sees her brothers smile

But it’s just the pressure of the silence

Or the fever, or the lapse into sleep

She wonders which lights of heaven he sees

But knows it will be nights of blood he feels

As the women huddle, secret sobs sifting

The dark and the dust, each holding onto herself

As if that, too, would be taken next.


As the waif points to the birds and asks

Where they went, Zainab does not want to answer

But Suqqiana has a strength,

She know now not to cry,

Even when tested by the Tyrant,

Those little hands cradling her father’s head

While he sneers with joy teetering on his seat.

Suqqaina’s eyes, though always brim,

Know now the rote reality of these days

So, pausing, Zainab says they go home

And the little head nods and ask when

They would go home, and the women keen.


The drag through another souk

The noise has become a drone

Faces have become old wax

All that remains is the procession

Arrayed spears bearing her love

In her father’s time they had borne

Torn pieces of the Quran like this

So now they hold those it praised

But he had told her to be strong

Have patience Zainab, so she did

Her father’s daughter, hidden by her hair

Bound, crumbling, but still strong.


The girl sleeps but Zainab won’t wake her

Those tired arms, wanting so much,

Yearning so much for her father.

She only slept this well on her father’s chest

And Zainab knows that she will not wake

But there is this moment of peace

Before she turns to Ali Ibn Hussain


Layla will not seek the shade

She finds a shaft of sunlight and sits

Rocking and rocking and her eyes lock.

In the sun, she says, in the sun,

They left my hope, my love, there.

Zainab touches he arm, but there is only

The sun.


When they all sleep, when she can be,

She holds her greying hair in her hands

What will she tell them at home?

That she left with a household

And she came back in tatters?

How will she fill the spaces

Once bustling and bursting?

She sees the women begin to stir

So she sits a little straighter

Remmember Zainab, be strong, he said


The Tyrant must do his want

Into the court he hauls the women

Zainab, suffers the shove and prod

As chain pulls chain into chain

Ali Ibn al Hussain bent double

Aging before her into his duty

The tyrant is drunk, again.

He rolls in his seat, and slumps.

She wonders why these great men

Perch and watch each other so.

The tyrant makes a joke

They pause, breath and laugh.

The Roman comes forward with a letter

The Tyrant leers at him and nods.

See my conquests, he boasts

He has taken that which is his

The Roman looks at the head

“Had we the descendant of Jesus

We would be glorifying him”

The Tyrant order his death

The Roman smiles, Zainab knows

He came, this day, for redemption.


Layla sits where she burns,

She had son, she says

Out there, on the sand

Half a spear stuck in his heart

She had a son, she sobs

Black curls and eyes of moonlight,

Strong, powerful, joy of the world

She had a Son, and he rode

Like the breakers near Shiraz

And when he read aloud

Atoms would listen

She had a son, but now she burns.


She is strong. Zainab rises.

Her voice begins to grow

Gentle at first, finding its roots

The out, full, into the air

Gathering her father’s power

Her brother’s force

And shatters the court

“God will deal with you. The Messenger

Of God is your resistance and Gabriel our support”

The Tyrant totters, unsure

She turns his certainty and he is lost.

He grasps for the death warrant

But others have his hands now.


They have taken Ali Ibn Hussain away,

Zainab grips her shoulders, holds the rope,

Not her last son, the one light left.

Stay strong, he said. Hussain said,

As he tore his own clothes,

Set his sword, sighed and stood,

Stay strong, this day’s end I hand to you.

So, suffer the things to come, as I can’t.

Ali Ibnal Hussain returns, he stands a little better,

Be strong Zainab, because that’s what will win.


This is the Tyrant’s house,

Paths of old prophets buried

Under the silt of the nihilists

But not today, not this day

As the Rooks of sorrow

Wash into this house.

This is the Tyrant’s house

And Zainab makes it a sanctuary

And here Zainab will cry

But the grief wallows

Quivering deep under the abuse

Used to whips holding it down

It does not know what to do

It needs reminders.

So they come, carried with care.

Each head pulls out shrieks

As each finds its heart,

But Zainab is numb,

Hussien in her arms.

Someone calls out to her

“There are two here unclaimed,

Did the mother of these children pass?”

And the grief remembers

And becomes Zainab.

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful and heart wrenching.To imagine, what it takes to be so strong for a 62 year old woman who has lost brothers and sons.