Tax Collector

Your sorrow looted the intelligence
        Off our hearts
Your pain the tax collecting auctioneer
        Of our hearts

That forbidden sacred secret for even
        The holy ones [1]
Your love whispered upon the ears
        Of our hearts


Betwixt her wet eyelashes bowed in obeisance performing ablution with the holy water of her tears, setting my Self afire, drop rolling after drop, flame flaring upon flame. Alas! Remains a heart smoldered leaving none but the ashes of these poems and my hollow burnt eyes, brim-filled with the afflatus of her darkness.

Lo! This evanescent moment, indeed so distinguished from all other moments, I am no longer a man but an eye, midst the charred shards of my shattered Self, reading the voiceless verbiage of her dark skin:

The ridge of her bent spine, the cathedral of knowledge, built upon the foundation of humanity’s lust for progress—a moment ago comforting luxury and now suffocating garbage. To untrained eyes an old black woman seeking the pittance of a wage, to mine blind eyes a Divine Cognoscenti [2] rummaging through the Divine Knowledge, lanterns of guidance hang upon the lofty walls of this cathedral by her trembling svelte arms.

Underneath the shade of her vapid eyebrow, I find the Mihrab [3] wherein my Self drown in prostration, eyeless wearing the goggles of her eyes diving deep the eddies of her darkness, snatching the glittering sable pearls of Paradise, eternal pearls strung upon the tents of the Prophets, pearls strewn the littoral of the shoreless sea of Divine Love.

Wearing her lips for wings, ethereally soaring along the hot sighs of her sorrow, smoothly gliding the confessions over the infectious sins of my life, searching the skies for that Divine Beloved—the giver of death—to bestow upon I the respite from my Self and in the last of my hour singing the avowal of her darkened destiny—the last sail of my voyage and the last verse of my pen.

Background: Jeanette (63) from Temba in South Africa is a grandmother looking after 8 grandchildren whose parents died of AIDS. To help pay for their school fees she spends most of her time on the rubbish dump shifting through tons of rubbish to collect tin cans to recycle. From this she earns the equivalent of £2 per week.

[1] When the Lord created Adam, he was endowed with infinite knowledge which none of the angels in the heavens ever knew, hence the enmity of Satan. Indeed that whisper of that knowledge makes this 63-year-old African woman to strive strenuously to gain funds to pay for her grandchildren’s schooling.

[2] Divine Cognoscenti is the translation of an Arabic word ‘Aref who is a righteous person learnt piety not from books, but received a gift of specialized knowledge from the Lord.

[3] Mihrab is an Arabic word for private place of worship e.g. where Mary used to pray privately in Jerusalem. Or where David used to meditate. Normally the place for prostrating in this Mihrab is a curved niche within the thick walls to allow for the lowering of the head in worship. Eyebrows are often used in Sufi poems as that curve within which the man bows into prostration so that the Lord may see him.

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda

Calligraphy by Fateh Ezzatpour.