So no likeness survives of Dhul-Nun?
These are first to go in iconoclasm
Whenever it breaks out among faithful.
The most fervent of God's holy warriors
Take the concept a step or two further
And burn all the copies of sacred texts
On which or in which his name appears,
For no human tongue may profane his name.
It must make worship a difficult task.
They've got themselves completely tongue-tied.
No one may repeat the prophet's teachings.
One may not make these into idols
Nor replicate his holy utterances.
Since words, they would reason, are just signs,
Nothing but a few arbitrary sounds,
To set them out in some pictorial fashion
That represents transcendent entities
Is once again idolatry most foul.
Even a paraphrase is not condoned.
Any thought of God is likewise sin,
Substituting idol for true presence,
And must be banished from mental process.
Think not of prophet, of God, or of book,
They urge themselves, paradox apparent
And yet a face to which the eye is drawn.
The most zealous of these in end become
Almost indistinguishable from heathens
And some are even burned as apostates,
Incorporated with kindling in bonfires,
By those less attentive to consequence,
Those who lift eyebrows, widen nostrils,
Not knowing these traits imitate God.
Their victims stare back, therefore, aghast
As flesh ignites, as searing pain begins,
At seeing those characteristics near,
So eerily close to true reflection.
They are true saints though and never renounce
Perfect adherence to the secular world
Until the last gasping of hot gases
That takes God's image up to God himself.
They climb to upper atmospheres as smoke,
Pulling the ladder up behind as they go.
At last the day arrived that brought Armand
To grasp and pull open the pawnshop's door.
I was, by then, undusted and forgotten,
Locked in rigour, seated on my high shelf
With a price tag manacled to my ankle,
A last insult added to injury.
And the tag's thrice-corrected pencilled price
Charted the long fall in my market value,
The history of my slide into disgrace.
Once the world's foremost visionary,
I was only one step from the landfill,
Shadowed by the rising backhoe bucket.
Even so, I remained proud, defiant,
Secure in the grip of high self-esteem.
I still heard, after all, the djinn's howl,
Dire, composed of fear, born of smokeless fire.
I still saw signatures, the thin threads
With which loose events are bound together.
Although I was cursed, enslaved, paralyzed,
Dejected, unsexed, greatly belittled,
And eyeless on one side, on the right side,
That eye having somewhere dropped off,
I still retained great prophetic powers.
My spirit was broken, will-power sapped,
Batteries almost completely depleted,
But I could still detect a lucky break
Should one wiggle its butt beneath my beak.
The subtle drafts raised by the opened door
Delivered scents, sweet spices of release,
Mixed, of course, with automotive exhaust
And heavy stench of uncollected trash.
Normal parrot nasal sense is enhanced,
Augmented by circuits, filters and chips
Until it picks up one part per billion,
The one particle that's partly benign,
The one that hasn't turned itself away.
Even in my now fallen state I knew
That this entrance meant a chance for escape,
That a means of deliverance was at hand.
And it was hard to say which beady eye
Gleamed with greater desire and greater greed
As Armand picked his way around the shop,
That of the hated pawnbroker, or mine.
We watched, like twin surveillance cameras,
And we saw bent bicycles bypassed,
Unsharpened hand lawnmowers rejected
And stringless electric guitars dismissed.
When he drew near the pawnbroker smiled,
Stubbed out his partly smoked cigarette,
And slipped his pornographic magazine
Under a pile of yellowed newspapers.
Liber Jonae Contents