Earthly Beauty

Statement on Mass Martyrdom of Egyptian Sufis
by Ashk Sylejman
November 26, 2017
Our founder grants permission to post this poem in response to the mass martyrdom of Sufis in Egypt. Please review our guidance here
Luciana Zana Trëndafilazezë
International Director

Our Zana.


The flag of the Bektashi Sufi order – Illustration Via Flags of the World.
Swans knocked at my door, and I answered
In untranslatable idioms, my own;
While reading In Defense of the Earth;
And writing in defense of the heart.
I found you, half-hidden in the light
Of the Sarajevo synagogue;
Your lips shone pale, with a lunar glow.
Then you were another, and disappeared.
Measure the distance lying between yourself
And the world of roses. Flowers, fruit and thorns:
Remember the blackberries, on the train to Zagreb,
After the last call to prayer in Maglaj.
Everything began and ended there:
I read Gotovac to you, quoting Mansur Hallaj –
In prison, Yugoslav guards confiscated his book –
We passed Omarska, with its terrible name.
I remembered that limo ride in Washington:
The Moroccan driver showed us photographs
Of an orchard in the High Atlas mountains:
Heavy with pears, on his father’s property.
I wanted to take you there, in hijab;
To hear the divine music, the Muslim Bach
Played on an instrument of metal
Salvaged from bits of junk, by a servant of God.
Once I thought I invented you, how little
I knew. You waited for me. I lived,
Frail with shame, utterly unknowing;
Young, a bullet smoldering in my brain.
Later came a moment in the courtyard
Of the Governor’s Mosque, in the Baščaršija;
Your head was covered by a silken scarf;
But your light burned too bright for evening prayer.
Earthly beauty: daybreak is your night;
In clothing, you conceal the sun of your flesh.
Night is the daybreak of your body
As your garments descend, with light restored.