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Volume 15

Fables and Folklore - Fall 2015


Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Written by
Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Shadab Zeest Hashmi is the author of Kohl & Chalk and Baker of Tarifa. Her poems have been translated into Spanish and Urdu, and published (or are forthcoming in) Prairie Schooner, Poetry International, Wasafiri, The Cortland Review, Vallum, Atlanta Review, Journal of Postcolonial Writings, The Adirondack Review and other journals. Her essays on eastern poetic forms such as the Ghazal and Qasida have been published in the Journal of Contemporary World Literature and 3 Quarks Daily, and her essays have appeared in the Washington Post, Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies, and Knot magazine. She represents Pakistan on Universe: A United Nations of Poetry. Hashmi’s first book Baker of Tarifa won the 2011 San Diego Book Award for poetry. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times and she received the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize and the San Diego Book Award for Kohl & Chalk in 2014. More information about Hashmi's work is available on her website: shadabhashmi.com.


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Saif ul Malook


Saif ul Malook, Prince of Egypt

No one remembers the name of the tutor
only that he showed the prince seventeen ways
to escape the palace
He said to toss the lapis-studded globe
across the hall and catch it—
the planet is easy to shatter,
he said, take a running
start and enter its swirl,
imbibe its oceans of innocence,
read the signs nesting in signs

Saif sees Badr ul Jamal in a Dream

Saif ul Malook, sword of kings
unsheathing the blade of questions:
is the valley true, is her face true?
A fine dust of doubt covers his mind
Badr ul Jamal, fire, fairy, pari, descends lightly
in a soundless emerald lake
circled by icy mountains, sets distance
ablaze: journey collapsing into sojourner
A gazelle’s leap— the measure
of dream gazing back at the dreamer

Saif Receives Solomon’s Cap

The dreamer melts the market’s glacial language,
coins a dialect of desire— streets awash in luminescence,
he wins the promise of a sage and Solomon’s cap
that carries him across walls, flag posts, barbed wires,
volcanoes, dunes— to Kaghan
The lake is a flickering blue crystal
forty fasting days away
from being filled with fairies from the Caucuses
Silver wreckage, golden plumage of a mystic’s patience
Moonrise over Malka Parbat, snow sculpted by fallen jinn

Hawa is love that shares its name with “air” and “falling”

Flying, flailing, falling. The fairy beats her wings
She is of a fire that seeks the cool of the lake
The man is of clay, seeks the shade of a pine,
leaves geometry, archery, oratory, grammar,
leaves the comfort of reason
Her pulse is a bolt of lightning
His dream is a field of tulips
She leaves her wings by the lip of the lake
He leaves his share of freedom under briars
Creature of fire, creature of dust: explain water

Spiral Staircase

You say the lake’s spell is breakable.
Sure, Solomon’s cap defeated Safed Deo, the demon,
carried the couple back from Kaghan to Cairo.
But love, you say, took the shape of the valley,
the contract between them, aqueous.
While the prince returned to the book case,
the princess was shown seventeen and more ways
to act acceptable— her flame lowered to a sallow glow,
steps dainty on the grand unclimbable staircase
to the room where, locked in a trunk, her wings tremble



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