#NaPoWriMo An Arabian Ballad

Arabian Poem

I was listening to my course on History of World Literature a month ago. It rekindled my childhood fascination for fables, fairy tales and legends of yore.

I started to write a poem, and with a life of its own, it grew and grew until I knew the story within a story structure could be played with, infinite times, but stopped when I felt satisfied with the structure. It took my five days to finetune it, but more so, to animate it.

The animation is an attempt at making the poem more reader friendly: Arabian Poem

Here it is, anyway.

Do remember,

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Music to accompany:

 

The Ballad of The Enamoring Adventures of Noor Ibrahim in the Valley of Famed Jewel of Pashtun as recounted by Shehrezade, sister of Duniyazade to King Shehryar

A great while ago while the worlds

Still held several unknown spectacles,

The Sands of Time blew

Shifting lands and breaking kingdoms few

Through the Sieves of Life

Building back lasting nations in strife.

A courtier’s daughter and her sister were trapped

In a cruel heartbroken King’s hand.

After their wives each had them betrayed

Sultan Shehryar and his brother had decided

Women, each one, were distrustful and deceiving fiend

He took a virgin wife, each day, to be guillotined.

The two girls, they devised a design, schemes mapped

To save themselves from lives damned.

Shehrezade would tell him a story each night

Garbed in Iskandarian red gold, muslin white-

This night, the four hundred and seventy second

She met the Caliph in chambers inlain carnelian,

Anointed with oils, the musk pod beckoned;

Scented her rose willow flower water, ambergris

In the huge glittering green and pink palace.

They loved until the sun set, jaded.

Shehzrezade was to leave to the axe man of malice,

When, as with each night, unhidden now Duniyazade,

With a petulant cry for a fantasy storied.

The enamoured Caliph agreed

For he enjoyed her tales wild and true.

Shehrezade donned the muslin of translucent hue.

Filled her pitcher with sweet water.

Before she took a sip, began with a starter-

O King of Stars and Winds, know this

In a certain realm, in certain lands,

In a little village, there lived…

A boy man, tall and red haired.

Kamal Ibrahim was a conman

He could fake his way

Out of a bank robbery in a cart van.

Then he would tip his cane and say,

“Was only the watchman, miss.”

And lo, he would be.

Then, one day he was compromised by an Heiress

Who with a flick of a finger, said, “To see

The world, I wish. Hark!”

Nargis Noor and Kamal Ibrahim set off

On a wild romantic lark.

Bright greens blues did the Heiress doff.

Every man’s eye did she snare

Besides every woman’s smile

And made even the palm trees sigh.

No farther did her father fare

To catch her, even within a mile.

They could make even priests lie.

Once or twice his eyes did glint

Like the pearls beads on her hair.

They were like stone and flint.

They fought beasts and snakes

With wit and teased rakes.

Heretofore, many great kings fell in snare,

Vainglorious, for his silver tongue.

Many Queens saw themselves among

A sly adviser and consorts.

Many tribes in terrified awe of

Nargis Noor’s water pacts.

Kamal Ibrahim’s mere presence was tough.

As chimaera became sphinxes

Water fell from Heavens only twice.

As Gods above granted rewards

Riches for men ten-fold over would suffice.

The Sands of Time blew

Through the Sieves of Life.

Noor Nargis and Kamal Ibrahim, as a crew

Had tasted success, voyages, rare honey alike a whiff.

Almost close to their fill in hindsight.

They lounged for a feast, by the fire and nightlight

Fit for the Moon Goddess and Deity Dusk

By the Musandam Fjords, bathed in wild musk.

While a fiddler twiddled of an empire lost

By the breaking of lands like a biscuit in tea.

A court bard bid them a bow haughtily-

“Ya qurban, salutations, my reader, for no cost

Here is a story! Let it come! Let it be gone!

Before the art of singing was known

When the earth stretched to fit in another God,

And Sea Djinn granted 8 wishes-

For 7 was too right- at 9 Djinn wronged

Land ifrits fell in love with mere humans!

You may be wondering how I know these old medleys and rhyme…”

“Not so!” mocked Kamal Ibrahim

The bard ignored him-

“Let the listener decide what’s at the heart of them.”

“Just tell it, old man straight up. “, derided Kamal Ibrahim,

“Once upon a time, not in your time nor in my time, but in a very good time…”

The bard cried out in a reedy voice

In a Baloch mountaineer patois.

“The Jewel of Pashtun was known

From Damascus to Baku

From Ur to Kabul

From Qandahar to Samarkhand

From Anatolia to Nineveh

From Karnak to –“

“Wherever!” Kamal Ibrahim hooted-

It was clear the oily bearded bard

Was an outlander with imagination bizarre.

“If you are going to tell a lie,” drawled Kamal Ibrahim.

Tell it so that someone will believe you!”

The bard huffed an angry rue.

“If you want any more,

My voice is sore

You can make it up yourselves.

The world ended. That’s how it ends.”

The spectators’ protestations were clipped

Noor quirked an eyebrow and a side of her lip.

Mollified, he began again with a high tenor

“Now, my anecdote has gone that way, and I’ve come this way.

Men whispered the Jewel of Pashtun in candor-

It was a scroll that wrought drought and decay.

Or was it an army of ancient trained soldiers in duty?

Some alleged it meant a woman of unseemly beauty.

Some more worshipped and sacrificed to her as a Goddess

Others believed it true with some fervor

A red gemstone, deepest of Earth’s wombs.

White flecks like crushed diamonds and stars sew

Together another Universe held within an afterglow.

To the eye, it glittered just as the waters indigo

Of these Fjords did, even more so.

A Princeling was he, who found this magnificence.

When he was out hunting

The Fabled Hound of Living

But that turned to be a simple creature ever since

Jealous of its territories

A glorious roaring lion, nothing more.

His head sought after glory of the unfamiliar.

Here he pursued the remarkable Stone of Pashtun.

Here he came to a woman in a worn cotton kaftan.

She was plucking at the grass

In her humble garden in the brown wilderness.

The Princeling stopped her

For a glass of water.

And an enquiry on her working

“Don’t you know, O persevering Princeling?

The skilled weed picker is a skilled breather?”

The Princeling was but a innocent youngling.

She went on, for he had not understood her-

“Unhappy Quester, here is my only meaning

Hard physical labour keeps the mind and body astir

For longer and maybe, ever after.”

The Princeling decided she was a wise woman

For her eyes definitely had the bearing of one.

“What and where is the Jewel of Pashtun?”

To which she answered with her accent now Armenian,

“Ah restless Princeling, the sand has been cast

That is but a legend of the past.”

Ghost cats prowl the shadows and hills

At the edges of the ravines and desert gullies.

She beckoned him in for sweetmeat, fruit and tea.

He bent in the doorway exclaimed decree-

“By fire, by father, by age, by which

I condemn you a witch!”

Outside, the sand tumbles like dust,

From her hand and soft wind seized it.

Dunes rose, umber and gold.

Vast and violet turned the inside hut.

The teleporting tapestry of Bishnagar

Hung in this strangehold

Gold fit for thieves’ caves from afar

Statues of diamonds, books of skin

Lamps, trees with fruits of jewels, mandolin

Lay about carelessly strewn like in Shanghai.

The Princeling coldly thought,

“If it is the Zumurrud of Smaragdine I spy

The Jewel of Pashtun I sought

Here it is, within grasp it is nigh.”

He knelt before the great djinni

For the old woman, one must have been

And begged favour and the Jewel of Pashtun.

The djinni led him to a chamber, another pantheon.

There, straightaway the young man

Saw the Jewel of Pashtun on a headdress.

“The wearer knows Witlessness

It leads not but to little death.

If you ask it shall be yours to bequeath

But the price is yours to meet.”

The Princeling nodded, face haggard,

He knew the deceitful bartering of djinns.

He ran to reach out for the headdress lacquered.

While quivered the old woman’s chins

The Princeling felt his throat tighten.

Presently the djinni captured young Jafar the Princeling

And wrenched from him the roaring head of a lion.

It was for her amassing- the Fabled Hound of Living.

Young Jafar strained against his cage.

He noticed the headdress reflected his image.

This he sat atop his head, the madness did ensue.

Presently, he knew what it is he was to do.

He summoned artifice, subterfuge, and guile

That the Jewel bade him, whispered in his ear.

The memories taint, insights revile.

They held him in anguished grief like a puppeteer.

He sweated as he called out the old lady-

“Which pilferer are you” he muttered desolately

“Submit to a bottle or lamp,

Or the Grand Vizier will soldier your camp.”

The old lady told him of her travail.

From the powerful djinn world

To mortal for escapades but they did unravel

Because a woman whirled swirled unfurled

In her life, she had surpassing humour.

They lived together until she grew little older.

Modest as she was, her heart was that of a Sailor.

She wanted to part from home, but sickness ailed her

But the djinni could do nothing but be Time’s jailor.

The djinni looked for remedy that no mage could doctor.

Amassing everything she could, but she had to falter

For her beloved, she could not fault her.

In throes of illness, she needed the cure

That only the Jewel with its knowledge could offer.

“Is it a silken sand viper’s venom I must procure?

Gold tooth of a crocodile from the Nile, or

The falcon sitting on a cactus and its feather?

Water by a pink sand beach, a spoonful of mirage?

Eyelashes from a white camel, herbs from hills azure?

Nothing will not be too hard to secure

If it is for my paramour!”

The Princeling told her of what he know knew.

The djinni thanked him with all her riches and words few.

The Sands of Time blew

Through the Sieves of Life

When he fled with the Jewel, the Princeling was a maniac.

That no antidote could be found even in an almanac.

And that’s the truth of the eminent Jewel of Pashtun.

Ever since then, that is the way it has been.

The tale is old. The tale is told.

There now, I have chopped at hashish on table.

I hope you won’t fail to be pleased by my fable.

For a kiss, I will tell you another true and bold. ”

Incensed, Kamal Ibrahim pushed him off the Fjord bank

Left the oily raconteur wet while Ibrahim drank.

Noor Nargis’s eyes gleamed like sapphires dual.

Kamal Ibrahim told her, “We have no need for a jewel

We make the sun shine on our own.”

She scoffed at him, with a moan

“You are a fool Kamal Ibrahim,

If I ever saw one. We lack adventure

Or have you become of your ploys unsure

Where’s the fun without another one

Quit spouting a romanticizing hymn.

Hold this paddle and oar,

Let me waddle us ashore.”

Thus they began their fool quest.

The Sands of Time blew

Through the Sieves of Life.

But they never quite found what they were looking for.

Shehrezade took a sip of her sweetened water,

“Is the father of my sons tired of this story yet?”

“A good story has many versions.

Wondrous and delightful are such diversions.

But one must serve courtly duty outright

For which I must bid you dreams of vivid sight.”

So saying, in the dark, once again, Caliph goes to his bed.

Tossing for his minstrel and her ministration,

Longing in anticipation the day they wed

No longer could he shed her blood; a dire situation.

 

-JRK

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2 comments

  1. This was such a delightful read! My mom was apparently calling me and I didn’t even hear as I was so immersed in reading this. 😂 Jaj, you write beautiful poetry. I can’t comment anything to do this justice. Loved it! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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