By Manahil Bandukwala
after Kaveh Akbar’s “The Miracle”
The illiterate man, unable to fall asleep each night as the sound of a camel shifting its weight from right leg to left echoes out the closing in of enemy men. He squeezes his eyes shut,
his body in
on itself, the hand of his wife who rests (not soundly, but rests
The illiterate man feels
in the dark for words
he did not write, for he is
neither a poet nor a madman but a man. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Daybreak.
Say it so loud drown out the camels, the enemies, the screams stirring within.
Daybreak, the moment
of splitting. A split of this
city from the one across
the way. Inside the illiterate
man’s house , the split between
asleep and awake, between fabled
calm and real panic.
The elusive promise of afterlife. The now. A split between seeing eyes by day and sniffing out magic by night. Mischief of darkness. Mischief of magic. Outside the illiterate man’s house, day to night, a chanting. A split
between silence and cavernous.
Magic is not real. Magic takes hold.
The best way to kill is with a
knife. The best way to kill is
with a sword . The best way
to kill is the one that is
successful. The way that
There is no fear of being caught. Who is there to catch? Stand around and argue the best way for as long as is left before night splits into new day.
The wind is a carrier of words. Words of conspiracy. The illiterate man shakes (his wife shakes in her sleep). The illiterate man recites. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Mankind. Wards of protection, back through the city riding on sand waves in the pre- dawn breeze. The squeeze
before the split.
Still not a poet nor a madman. Still a man. On the verge of a split.
Listen. The echo has faded. The only words a sedate music. The illiterate man, asleep.