Melody Cinema

Humbling of Bhutto in Mecca, Bhutto kissing
Hajar-e-Aswad, half the Bhutto cabinet in Ihram,
kneeling. These were the first scenes, in the rolling
newsreel of half-closed doors, of the doorjamb

in the way of the twentieth century’s upstarts.
A nationalization, by Bhutto, of religious piety?
No, but a headlong scram into obeisance
of all and everybody and everything to the stately

rise of Islam in the neighboring, overbearing Arabia.
That year Bhutto had appointed my father
Hajj secretary, and we, the seven children and the ayah,
were present at Melody Cinema in full regalia

to see, to our amazement, on the screen,
our father in Ihram like Bhutto, and in a tent in Mina,
sitting on the ground in an ablution scene,
the humbling of our mysophobic mother,

who before her pilgrimage would have drunk water
only from a glass washed three times by a servant
and who wouldn't sit on the drawing-room sofa
unless it was draped by a freshly laundered sheet.


Melody Cinema, a film theater in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Hajar al-Aswad, a black stone set in the eastern corner of Ka’ba. A relic from space.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Berkeley and Oxford University educated left-oriented prime minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977. Father of Benazir Bhutto, 11th prime minister of Pakistan.
Ihram, garments worn during the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Raza Ali Hasan, "Melody Cinema" from Sorrows of the Warrior Class. Copyright © 2015 by Raza Ali Hasan. Reprinted by permission of Sheep Meadow Press.
Source: Sorrows of the Warrior Class (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
More Poems by Raza Ali Hasan