Qasida of Disavowed Silence


By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

qasida of disavowed silence

Blindfolded by two meters of silk
I spin to the rumor-spilling crickets

This mill is my home
moonlight cast on the hill
like a wound-up snake
tale of the jackdaw and the fisherman
secrets of a queen’s marble boat
or the first Mercedes ride in the summer palace,
how, first, superstition (the front-seated driver),
then, rage seized her (he would not kneel while driving!)

qasida of the hall of clocks

I measure from rumor to rumor
with:
a flickering mechanical hand
a furry footfall
a chime deep as a swig of medicine
Each clock here is the work of an empire
a dreamer in the cerebellum of a cloud
a gift of seven hundred senses
such as the sense of swinging, the sense of velvet numbness,
the sense of unstoppable ticking, so on.

qasida of the wax pavilion

The wedding that began with a ladder
and a man stringing lights
and a woman rising early to make thirteen pots
of stew and double the rice—
ends in wax—a seal between them and their child,
wax circles the song, the soup tureen, the bride’s
first glance at the groom, her gem-studded sandals,
the August night’s luster, billowing marriage canopy,
fireworks, sliced peaches, tearful goodbye—
The onrush of wax makes them old, makes them new

qasida of the overgrown bamboo

Because her thoughts threw such giant shadows
she never saw the family of two-humped camels,
wild chestnuts or plums across the field, or the shirtless,
wrinkled old men laughing on rooftops
with their kites
Because her magenta sleeves remained
dipped in work,
buttermilk, sugarcane juice, baby’s piss—
were all the same. It was bamboo brought her back to life
one day as it lifted itself and startled her windows

qasida of the clarity that came from hibiscus bark

Before empire, before its throttle,
before my stutter,
I remember the milk jade
of your voice, a teacher’s calm wisdom
buried, sprouting at last the completed ends
of sentences you began
Your bones become hibiscus bark, become paper—
I bow to the muscle of forbearance
I bow to the limb of silence
I bow to the tongue of your clarity


Shadab Zeest Hashmi, author of Kohl and Chalk and Baker of Tarifa, is the recipient of the San Diego Book Award, the Nazim Hikmet Prize, and multiple Pushcart nominations. She has been published in Prairie Schooner, The Cortland Review, Poetry International, Vallum, Atlanta Review, POEM and other journals worldwide.