Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
The Prayer Rug of Islam
By Ajan Syrian
From “The Near East”

MEN there are who live among flowers
And the colors of the rose are known to them in the seed—
Even as the hands of a woman in the dark
Make of the shadows a garden,
Filling the night of her husband with fragrance.        5
Men there are who know the stars:
To them, the night sky is a velvet woof
Crossed with the tints of jewels and April waters.
It is a carpet infinitely patterned,
Whereon the Poet-God lies, half dreaming—        10
Amid the perfect and the boundless
Yearning for the wistfulness of things imperfect,
And so making the Song that is Humanity.
Even so am I to the roseate carpets of the Orient.
The Magic of Khorassan weavers is known to me:        15
The dyers of Khiva and Damascus,
And the Arabian dreamers in purple,
The resonant color-singers of old Turkestan,
Have come to me out of the dim shadows
Of the carpet-bales,        20
Under the flickering gas-jets,
In the back room of a little shop on upper Broadway.
For—how long ago!—in the time of peace
I was a rug vendor.
Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen, Anno Domini:        25
And Spring bursting with young green in the parks,
And bird-wings rhythmically weaving
Into the New Earth’s carpet
Little mottoes of freedom!
Gajor wept and said, “You will never return.”        30
And my friends in the Syrian café on Tenth Avenue
Laid their hands heavily upon me.
But I saw only the hands of the ancient color-singers beckoning;
Heavier were their ghostly fingers tapping at my soul.
Oh! never were the lips of her I love        35
More desirous and more dear
Than when she alone whispered:
“If thou diest, I die; yet go!”
Makhir Subatu!
Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen, the Year of Our Lord,        40
And Spring; and the Rose of Sharon blooming
By crimson-clotted brooks:
And gold-tongued lilies
That once, with my youth, answered the nightingale,
Now dumb beneath the moon,        45
Their white throats choked with blood!
Among the trampled green of olive-groves
Are strewn the stained girdles of young women,
Or wrapped about small—pitifully small—black mounds of death.
Sky-blue, sea-blue, girdles of young women        50
That once sacredly bound the Hope of a Race,
Waiting the loosening hands of Love;
And little tunics of slain children
Woven through the woof, like the snow-flower pattern,
Under triumphant spring-green banners        55
Blowing from the four corners of the hills.
And the fringes that hold the Sacred Carpet up to Heaven—
The countless thick-packed white fringes—
They are the bones of men who loved their Christ.
For this is the great Prayer-rug of Islam.        60
I have seen the Turk weaving his Sacred Carpet,
I have knelt on the Prayer-rug of Islam!
I am apostate, dear Christ!
Christian and poet no longer, lover no more,
How shall I lay hands on my beloved’s blue girdle?        65
My heart is a place of swords!

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