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(Homage to Omar Khayyam)

The goddess folds her golden wings

across the lintel of the sky

as light retreats from hummocked hills,

called inward by the muezzin’s cry.

Bleached scents of climbing roses flow

on rivulets of air past low

domed tombs, reminders that the writs

of Mahmoud and of Suleiman

ran here. Reminders too, the slow-

paced arabesques of inlaid rooms,

the oriental glide in which

Roxana’s viziers survive.

By dark possessed, in buried caves

and tumuli more ancient beings

persist, ceramic limbs clasped tight

or raised. To whom they prayed -- all vows –

whatever sought -- now smothered in

the drift of years: faith’s sleight-of-hand

made manifest. All fades: all gods,

each columned hall and blue

pavilion. The lords of over-

lords are shards. Caught in a closing

noose of sight between arched entrances

and trapdoors of goodbye, we sift

such matters fruitlessly – small things

that perch, then fly. The goddess says:

Hold fast and sing, and sing again

beneath the Bowl of Night -- lift high

the Cup; though answered only by an

echo; by the desert breeze’s sigh.

First published in The Federal Poet, Vol. LXXV (Spring 2019) 

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