A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Behind Beit Al Qur’an – its thirteen centuries of texts
enshrined in glass, where you can see beneath a lens
the holy verses on a grain of rice – the sparrows of Bahrain
scuffle by the trashbin, and leave
their delicate calligraphy upon the dust.
The price of oil goes up; they are not touched by it.
The causeway to the Saudi states shuts down;
the sparrows squabble, mate and flutter on.
Communications towers, refineries, desalination schemes
are of another world to them.
In the 27th sura of Qur’an, Solomon has marshaled
all his jinn, his birds and men, into a vast battalion.
Sheba sends forth envoys bearing thick, tooled gold.
Solomon responds: “That which Allah has bestowed
on me is more than any wealth you send.”
At the public dump in Manama, sparrows
move nimbly among the flames, finding
the tiny grains even the last few
poor within this oil emirate disdain.
On the final day, when darkness comes
and mountains pass away like clouds, when the last
oil spill has stained the last fair stretch
of sand, when the spreading desert
has engulfed the last hectare of working land,
when the gardens and the office towers have drained
the last sweet water flowing underground,
will the sparrows of Bahrain break into flame?
Will they become avenging angels?
Or only mark this desert place, like feeble
votive candles held against the dark?
From Each Perfected Name (Truman State). Copyright 2015 Richard St. John
Richard St. John (photo by Mark Perrott)