#poem #poetry #amwriting the muslim's tale iv

ali took his loot to a hidden cave
dark and thin as is a womb
by strangled candlelight he'd count
ninety-eight diamonds in the gloom

then he'd wait the clouded moon
to cloak him as he slipped for home
to mince the mice caught in traps
to feed his hawks - while he ate scraps

ninety-eight diamonds bought in blood
each the human race destroyed
yet still he must salute the judge
and still - though rich - had no wife

how sorry is miserly greed - have mercy
for ali must bear the sores of a beggar
curse the law that makes him murder
or eunuch if again caught thief

then what use is he to lotvia
more beautiful than the breeze of a brook
who of a glance an octave of the buzuq plays
and for whom ninety-eight have shortened days

for as the night stilled to jasmine'd breath
to silvered sight illuminate
from the court of the merchants house
lotvia and her sister doolia music make

and ali would climb a ladder to the roof
flatten himself serpent low
and fall in love again with every note that played
and know why he was punished so - to stay