“I’ll build you a kingdom in that house on the hill…”

Around the cathedral, few creatures say what they actually mean. When the lovelorn cicada on the south nave needed advice on impressing the silent insect with whom he shares a buttress, I shrugged and loaned him a book on ghazals. Cicadas are well suited to the form: They respect tradition, they’re enigmatic by nature, and they know how to flutter indecisively around a perfectly bright idea.

GHAZAL

The scullions ma’am’d and sir’d to the Abbasids;
The lusts of locusts whirred through the Abbasids.

Salaam, she sighed. A serpent shed a city,
And in, a starving bird, flew the Abbasids.

In wine, in witless words, in bloodshot mornings,
The gift of gardens blurred to the Abbasids.

A general’s eye surveyed the rheumy rooftops,
And frozen by a word grew the Abbasids.

You sang, “the bow his brow, his lashes lances…”
Our dawn campaign referred to the Abbasids.

“It’s cool,” the in-crowd says, “to dig this chanting.
A ban would be absurd to the Abbasids.”

Her angel raises ribbons, blue and scarlet,
But wasting in the third queue? The Abbasids.

I studied senseless serifs on your postcard,
A lore I long preferred to the Abbasids.

Spines align. He scans her posture sidewise:
El Cid, Beginner’s Urdu, The Abbasids…

The old cicada sang, his soul emerging,
And yet you never heard. Do the Abbasids?


(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab.)

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