Hajj poems


From Timbuktu to Chittagong,
in robes of grimy white,
we walk,
we run,
we walk
and run again
like ghostly scarecrows
flailing in a fetid purgatory.

Here, on Marwah —
Arbor of the Female Principle
in ancient times —
we stall as we negotiate the turn,
our arms outstretched to set
trajectories for supplication:

Ya Allah, you whose mercy called me to the faith,
do not divest me of it till you cause my death!

And then we’re off again,
towards Safa —
the Citadel of Masculinity,
where nimble satyrs
had their pleasures punitively petrified —
a roiling, ragged throng
that lurches to the left
and then, on impulse, to the right,

precariously braced against
the undertow of jahiliyyah.

First published in Music in the Air.