2. Zainab’s Lament in Damascus
by Agha Shahid Ali
A segment of the narrative poem
“From Amherst to Kashmir”
Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen?
Look at me, O people of Shaam,* the Prophet’s
only daughter’s daughter, his only child’s child.
Over my brother’s
bleeding mansion dawn rose — at such forever
So weep now, you who of passion never
made a holocaust, for I saw his children
slain in the desert,
crying for water.
Hear me. Remember Hussain,
what he gave in Karbala, he the severed
heart, the very heart of Muhammad, left there
Deaf Damascus, here in your Caliph’s dungeons
where they mock the blood of your Prophet, I’m an
orphan, Hussain’s sister, a tyrant’s prisoner.
Father of Clay, he
cried, forgive me. Syria triumphs, orphans
all your children. Farewell.
And then he wore his
shroud of words and left us alone forever.
Paradise, hear me —
On my brother’s body what night has fallen?
Let the rooms of Heaven be deafened, Angels,
with my unheard cry in the Caliph’s palace:
Syria hear me
Over Hussain’s mansion what night has fallen
I alone am left to tell my brother’s story
On my brother’s body what dawn has risen
Weep far my brother
World, weep for Hussain
* Shaam: Arabic word for Syria.