Mir Babar Ali Anees

(1803 - 1874 / Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India)

When In Shaam The Caravan Of Widows Arrived - Poem by Mir Babar Ali Anees

When in Shaam the caravan of widows arrived
In embarrassment they bowed their heads and cried
Seeing spectators lined up on the streets
Tears of humiliation filled their eyes
Having trailed through the roads, shops and streets
The ladies reached the court of the evil Yazid

There Yazid conversed with Abid at length
Hearing Abid’s responses, the courtiers wept
Disgraced, Yazid brought the discussion to a close
Enraged at Sajjad’s character and strength
While everyone dispersed and returned to their homes
To prison the kin of the Prophet went on
In the dark prison, they sat heads bowed
Frightened of the darkness, Sakina looked around
So exhausted was Abid from His journeys on foot
He dropped to the floor without a sound
Many nights He had stayed up, many miles He had walked
He slept now, resting His ahead against the wall
“Why is it so dark?” Sakina wanted to know
“What place is this mother, where no air flows?
The darkness is smothering, I can’t see a thing
Not the earth beneath or the sky above”
“We cannot stay here, no one will survive
Will lamps be lit when evening arrives?” “If it stays this dark, I will certainly not last
I’m convinced that this night will not pass
My father would cradle me on his chest at night
Now sleep on the dirt? I cannot alas”
“If a lamp blew out, I’d wake with a start
Have I ever, Oh Mother, slept in the dark?”
Banu replied, wiping Sakina’s tears
“Hush my little one, lest the guards hear
The sun will rise soon, the darkness will be gone
Or moonlight will illumine this place my dear”
“You will soon feel a breeze, the night will cool down
I’ll hold you in my arms, rest Oh little one”
Thus the mother consoled, cajoled and calmed
The girl was restless, the night stretched on
Sakina, restless and weary, sobbed through the night
Curled up and wrapped in her mother’s arms
Her body frail and weak, she finally slept
And Bano held Sakina in her arms and wept
Within moments Sakina was restless again
She felt her father’s presence, of him she dreamt
Stretching wide her arms, she awoke with a start
And peered in the darkness, her eyes seeking him
She cried “Oh Mother, not a thing I can see
My Father was here, tell me where is he?”
Everyone wept at Sakina’s state
As did the prison guard, concealing his face
News of Sakina’s distress was brought to Yazid
That she weeps for her father, for him she prays
Inconsolable, distraught, nothing calms her down
She wants her father, she wants him now “Take his head, show it to her” Yazid ordered his men
And Husain’s severed head was carried thence
Its glory and radiance lighting the path
Fragrant and glorious Its noble presence
Sensing the haloed arrival, the prisoners hastily rose
Impatiently Sakina waited by the door
Anxious to see Him, smiling through her tears
The air grew fragrant as His head drew near
With His aura the prison air transformed
Gone with the gloom was Sakina’s fear
In reception the prisoners lined up at the door
In respect and salutation Abid arose
Anxious to hold Him, Sakina spread her tattered dress
And hugged His head close to her chest
She kissed His forehead, His cheeks, His lips
The prisoners sat around her in awe and respect
Zainab sat forlorn, hair strewn, head bare
Husain’s glance was affixed to his sister’s face
Holding her dear father’s severed head
Sakina sat on the floor, whispered and pled
Spoke words of love, of her loss, her pain
Then all went quiet as though she were dead
Her face resting on her father’s face
She sighed and shuddered then took her last breath
At first, her silence gave no one alarm
For everyone thought she was feeling calm
But as the silence stretched, the mother cried out
“Wake up dear Sakina, pass the head to you aunt”
Hearing no response, terror filled Banu’s heart
“She’s fainted” said everyone, “Banu take heart” Banu lifted Sakina into her arms
Saw the lifeless limbs, eyes shut, face calm
Neck limp, face drooping to her chest, not a sound
“What is this?” She cried, “What is this now?”
“What healer do I consult, where do I go?
I am locked in prison door, what do I do?”
She fanned Sakina’s chest, lifting her shirt
“Pray my lady,” she turned to Zainab and urged
She called out to Abid in utter distress
“Help me my son, your sister won’t stir”
“I am trying to wake her but I see no response
She may have passed out, yet her breathing has stopped”
Feeling his sister’s pulse Abid sighed and tensed
And the mother cried “I have no more strength”
“Yet I’ll face the truth, do not hide from me son”
Abid replied “Dear mother, Sakina is dead”
“Lay her down on the sand, let her body rest
Her body is bruised, yet she’s peaceful in death”
“In this dark prison my daughter is dead?”
Banu cried “This death I can never forget”
And Fizza ran to the door and asked the guards
For a lamp to light the house of the dead
“No one keeps a body laying so in the dark
Yet our little girl lies in the prison pitch black”
With the coming of dawn, the prison was lit
And Banu bent over Sakina and looked
Saw the bruised ears, dried blood on her neck
Her dress blood-stained, torn and burnt
Face pale, Sakina rested on the dirt floor
Hair laden with dust, crying no more “My dearest” She cried, “Come wake up now
Its time for prayers, your head you must bow”
“You’ve never needed to be awoken for prayers before
You awoke on your own, what has happened now?
You know the guards’ fury, do not so doze
This is not home Sakina, they’ll come to the door”
“The darkness troubled you, you couldn’t rest
You’d pray for a breeze, you’d get upset
The breeze from heaven will cool you tonight
In your new home Sakina my dear sleep well”
“I hope you find comforts you couldn’t find here
May your grave be roomier than this prison my dear”

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 19, 2012

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