Poem By Ali Alizadeh

After the sin, I slipped out
of the cave, bright and brave

for a new world. Father’s blood
puddled behind inside the dark

house, the terror of his shadow
scraping the floor, the sclerotic flame

almost dead. I had dropped the blade
and swam across the stream to the city

where I met you. Meek and masked
– and wonderfully urbane — you marvelled

at my nakedness, wetness, patricidal hands
and wrapped your cloak around me. The smoke

of the chimneys, the chiming of the bells
of your secular church, seductive, sonorous

to my empty ears. I was the first volunteer
an absolute convert to your cause, craved

nothing but your confidence. Remember
our pacts, oaths and other artifacts

of allegiance? For how many years
I served and killed, severed fingers and heads

for you? A prodigious assassin
to your proud benefactor. I’ve been

thinking about all that. When
exactly and why was it that I grew

restless, resentful of your patronage
to yearn for a peripatetic life? Which knife

did I do it with? You know
it wasn’t a sin. Your city had become

my new prison, you my new
shady patriarch. I had to hate you. Now

I’m a captive to my freedom
and the dusty winds of the desert

envelope me in place of your wings
as I prostrate. I kneel before your ghost.

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