Stars of Stone

Going through some folders of old poetry, looking to find salvageable lines from binned poems, and thinking about how Afghanistan, Islam, and the murderous barbarism of ‘honour killings’ have been constantly in the news over the past few months (and years, especially since 2003), I thought I’d put up ‘Stars of Stone’, a poem drafted in 1996 after I had read a report of an honour killing in Afghanistan:

Stars of stone

Today the stones I know will nick
our skulls, then knock our souls
from us. It is so. For under stars
that are but burning stone,
we held each other. Named for light,
Nurbibi clung to me, her back
against the flat roof of my house
warding off earth, hanging
under heaven. Face-down,
I gripped her shoulders, smelled
the stone roof through the rug.
Nurbibi may have stared
over my shoulder at the stars,
those burning bits of far-off stone.

And she may have seen four men’s eyes
hanging above us in their own,
unmoving flame. Eyes of stone,
heads shrouded in swathes
of scripture. So I, Turyalai,
am bound. And on my knees.
And Nurbibi, in whose loins I sought
some God, is now almost at one
with earth, buried to her waist
next to me. We wait
for the seekers of God
and their ceremony of the stone.
Men we do not know will come
and let stone speak, first in whispers

then in what they must believe
a chattering of angels
when the crowd erupts and rocks arc
but in parabolas far short
of reaching God, that must return
to earth. Men who do not know us.
Men who cannot know
that even as we wronged my wife,
in union we created God. In come-cries
caught in the throat, we made Him.
And made Him ours, gave Him some voice
even as He was in the still of night
as He is now, inchoate
before the hard and burning stars.

(Turyalai and Nurbibi were accused of adultery and
stoned to death by the Taliban in November 1996.)

from This Carting Life, (© Kwela/Snailpress, 2005)

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