This is the Zainabiyah.
Dull drumbeat days
Poured orange and black
Dripping days of rope burn
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
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.