6 March 1989
On 6th March 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He issued a poetic response.
Boy, yaar, they sure called me some good names of late:
e.g. opportunist (dangerous). E.g. full-of-hate,
self-aggrandizing, Satan, self-loathing and shrill,
the type it would clean up the planet to kill.
I justjust remember my own goodname still.
Damn, brother. You saw what they did to my face?
Poked out my eyes. Knocked teeth out of place,
stuck a dog’s body under, hung same from a hook,
wrote what-all on my forehead! Wrote ‘bastard’! Wrote ‘crook’!
I justjust recall how my face used to look.
Now, misters and sisters, they’ve come for my voice.
If the Cat got my tongue, lok who-who would rejoice–
muftis, politicos, ‘my own people’, hacks.
Still, nameless-and-faceless or not, here’s my choice:
not to shut up. To sing on, in spite of attacks,
to sing (while my dreams are being murdered by facts)
praises of butterflies broken on racks.
I absolutely adore a few authors. Rushdie was among the first to get on that list. Many have since come and some gone, but he remains. This would have been a star candidate for the Prose Writers series. Oh well, better late…
Unlike his prose, this poem is no allegory, no myth, just plain facts. But there remains the language – that one grows to love, that makes one smile knowingly. I really like the last two lines, which to me express are more real, than all the explicit and loud descriptive verse that preceeds them- to sing (while my dreams are being murdered by facts)/praises of butterflies broken on racks.
* A poem from Haroun and the Sea of Stories, at the minstrels.