written by Rafey Habib


— Rafey Habib

Enshrouded in the high mantle of night.
The darkness of idols, greed in business,
Abuse of orphans, widows, women.
Here, from the mountain, I see the darkness
That enfolds the world. Yet now
Another darkness descends on me,
A beating of wings, shuddering, as if
Beating in my own breath, heart, soul:
Shadow everywhere, shadows, all shadow.
What moment is this, opening into
The very soul of time, what mode of time
Unfolding the very breath of
Eternity. God. Worlds above, worlds
Upon worlds. What weight of universe
Descends upon me, spreading through me,
Breathing into my lips, through my language
A voice from so high yet so deep within
Shuddering in Angel breath: O vision
At the edge of vision, wherever I turn
The dark horizon is lit with the form of Angel,
Forcing me, wherever I turn, he stands,
Confronts, blinding, colossal, power of light
Burning before me yet deep within:

All the forces of mountain and desert
Cry into my heart; the black sky
Thunders in my throat:
All the sources of life, all sense, all
Power of reason, of beauty, the sublime
Freeze in this moment, in this cave,
All resources of language, lips, eyes, hands
Flow and freeze in this one command:
Read! Echoing inside me, pounding,
Read! My own voice. I hear
Myself, from deep within:
I cannot, I cannot read.
Again the echo, pressing louder, harder:
Read! The word, the world, bites
In my head, my frame shivering yet
Numb: I cannot read. Read!
And now, I know the power, know
The hour is too great: What shall I read?
Read in the Name of Thy Lord...
My being is cleft as dread
Spreads through this human form:
It is both Night and Day, the desert
Horizon rises to sky, all heaven
Burning over every grain of sand.
And here I stand, man
Transformed, yearning,
Shivering, breathless, touched
In spirit, breathing a word
The Word.

[Hira: The Prophet’s First Revelation in the Cave of Hira on the Mountain of Nur]

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Robert Southwell was born at Horsham St. Faith's, Norfolk, England, in 1561; hanged at Tyburn, 21 February, 1595. His grandfather, Sir Richard Southwell, had been a wealthy man and a prominent courtier in the reign of Henry VIII. His grandfather had been a...

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