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Do you remember the night Abraham first saw
The stars? He cried to Saturn: "You are my Lord!"
How happy he was! When he saw the Dawn Star,
He cried, ""You are my Lord!" How destroyed he was
When he watched them set. Friends, he is like us:
We take as our Lord the stars that go down.
We are faithful companions to the unfaithful stars.
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The dirt flying out from behind our back claws.
And no one can convince us that mud is not
Beautiful. It is our badger soul that thinks so.
We are ready to spend the rest of our life
Walking with muddy shoes in the wet fields.
We resemble exiles in the kingdom of the serpent.
We stand in the onion fields looking up at the night.
My heart is a calm potato by day, and a weeping
Abandoned woman by night. Friend, tell me what to do,
Since I am a man in love with the setting stars.
[First appeared in Poetry Magazine. Thanks to the editors for permission to reprint.]
This is from a sequence of 48 poems, each of them 18 lines long, which are based loosely on the Islamic ghazal form. In its classic form, each stanza stands alonehas its own landscape, so to speakand the theme of the poem is never stated. So the reader has much more to do than he would be used to in the contemporary English poem. When the ghazal has its full development, each stanza in a given poem ends with the same word. This collection of poems will be published by HarperCollins in April of 2001.