Poems from Antiquity

The Trial of al-Hallaj

The votes are in, the die is cast
As orthodoxy stands aghast.

The molders of the ummah’s mind
Reflexively profess to find

In ‘Ana’l-Haqq’ – I am the Truth –
An imprint of the devil’s hoof.

While learned elders slip away
to stroke their grizzled beards and pray,

The torturer receives his brief:
To break all bones, if not belief.

And thus is moral outrage bent
Once more to murderous intent.

Baghdad, 911.
First published in Music in the Air.