Light of the World
by Sofiul Azam

for Seamus Heaney


Seamus, you Glob’s cool champion
of feeling into The Bog People,
of an archaeologist’s digging
into the long frozen bogmud,

into the fossilized skeletons
not yet pulverized of so intent
the convivial as never found
in the bogland; in civilized

outrage you see the result
is an increment of the puzzles,
big lies of a history of forbearance
and the ethics of punishment.


And I am, too, a chronicler
of Nurjahan born in the lush
tropics, our ‘light of the world’
and lusty preachers’ ‘little

adulteress’ sunk up to her neck
in the cold soil – the target
of curses sprinkled unlike rain,
of stones and the crude lash

a tool of the remunerated
chiefs only appeased by lust
in private. The trial she stood
for in the shower of light

was tempered by their fury
and of a strict kind others'
acknowledged indifference. Oh,
I'm, too, guilty of my heart.


Just before they flogged her
hard on her ebonized back
and stoned her, she bloomed –
a grassflower with dewy

crystals on its thin petals,
yet to be trampled under feet,
hawkers from house to house;
and the flesh kind of

thickened on every contour
so pulpy water hang on the tip
of every pig’s tongue. Black
emitted such gleams of light.


How perfectly her screams fit
the preachers’ litany a babel
of neophytes and the agnostics
nervy in the salubrious air!

They rushed into a covenant:
nothing ever comes whole
but with another, so does light
with darkness as that

in the grave. It’s the preachers
(the wisest among dung-worms)
who brought out the meaning
off both sides of a coin.

The play is over, the curtain
drawn; and in the decency
of silence we stand emblazoned
with the glaucoma in our eyes.


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