A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Black Widow and the Blessed Damozel

The image is striking: a sultry teenager, partly veiled,
in the embrace of a bearded man—both grasping handguns.
From the fixed place of Heaven she saw time like a pulse shake fierce through all the worlds
Islamic militants persuade “black widows” that a suicide bombing
will reunite them with their dead relatives beyond the grave.
“I wish that he were come to me, for he will come”
They go on a mission fully confident that they will meet with their loved ones.
“I'll take his hand and go with him to the deep wells of light”
A burned shred of a letter in Arabic found on Abdurakhmanova’s body
promised a “meeting in Heaven.”
The blessed damozel lean'd out from the gold bar of Heaven
Meantime, Chechnya itself resembles a post-apocalyptic landscape
of refugees, feral dogs, war criminals, armed gangs and shells of buildings.
“We two will stand beside that shrine, occult, withheld, untrod”
The Czarist conquest of the Caucasus region, waged explicitly as a
Christian crusading cause, continued on and off throughout the 19th century.
“He shall fear, haply, and be dumb: Then will I lay my cheek to his, and tell about our love”
In 1859 Alexandre Dumas traveled to the Caucasus region.
He describes how his genteel hosts invited him to go hunting
—a common pastime—in pursuit of locals to kill.
“Only to be, as then awhile, for ever now together, I and he”
Russian television said virtually nothing of the appalling events through the entire day.
She ceased. The light thrilled toward her, fill'd with angels in strong level flight.
Teachers in the village remember Ms. Abdullayeva—
whose first name means “paradise” in her local Dagestani language—
as a promising student who recited poetry in local competitions.
Her eyes prayed, and she smil'd. (I saw her smile.) (I heard her tears.)

This poem culls text from the poem “The Blessed Damozel” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and AP, Forbes, and New York Times news reports and op-eds from April 2, 2010.


  1. From silly to serious in one day flat.

  2. YES! good use of those crazy parentheticals! Much more effective than in Rossetti I think!!! Also, visuals=great.