Friday, September 4, 2020

The Autobiography of Khwaja Mustasim by Amit Majmudar

The Autobiography of Khwaja Mustasim


I stood for twenty years a chess piece in Córdoba, the black rook.

I was a parrot fed melon seeds by the eleventh caliph.

I sparked to life in a Damascus forge, no bigger than my own pupil.

I was the mosquito whose malarial kiss conquered Alexander.

I bound books in Bukhara, burned them in Balkh.

In my four hundred and sixteenth year I came to Qom.

I tasted Paradise early as an ant in the sugar bin of Mehmet Pasha’s chief 


I was a Hindu slave stonemason who built the Blue Mosque without 


I rode as a louse under Burton’s turban when he sneaked into Mecca.

I butchered halal in Jalalabad.

I had been a vulture just ten years when I looked down and saw Karbala set 

    for me like a table.

I walked that lush Hafiz home and held his head while he puked.

I was one of those four palm trees smart-bomb-shaken behind the reporter’s 

    khaki vest.

I threw out the English-language newspaper that went on to hide the 

    roadside bomb.

The nails in which were taken from my brother’s coffin.

My sister’s widowing sighed sand in a thousand Kalashnikovs.

I buzzed by a tube light, and three intelligence officers, magazines rolled, 

    hunted me in vain.

Here I am at last, born in a city whose name, on General Elphinstone’s 1842 

    map, was misspelt “Heart.”

A mullah for a mauled age, a Muslim whose memory goes back farther than 

    the Balfour Declaration.

You may remember me as the grandfather who guided the gaze of a six-

    year-old Omar Khayyám to the constellations.

Also maybe as the inmate of a Cairo jail who took the top bunk and shouted 

    down at Sayyid Qutb to please please please shut up.



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