No King, No King of Kings

has ever lit up our hearts like this. No king. See
Bhutto in Karachi, 1972. His path strewn with rose petals,
sprinkled with attar, leads him, not to the sea
with its crashing surf and screaming gulls
but into the alleys and passageways of a slum.
Ferdowsi in Shahnamah tags it for the interim

as “the place of worship before any others existed. . . ”
No King, no King of Kings, had ever toured
a slum before. It opened wide the thrice-locked
chamber of mercy in our hearts. The gathering crowds
expecting to catch a glimpse of Bhutto, are,
instead, treated to a double vision: Alexander

the Great, in a red robe, left hand resting
on his sword, like in an illustration from Shahnamah,
as he watches our own pilgrim, the unsuspecting
Bhutto “reach for the door handle of the Ka'ba.”
Bhutto’s entourage and PTV news crew
push back. The crowd askew,

insufflated by this vision, pushes Bhutto
towards the hovel of the woman driven
half-insane by poverty. Bhutto, aglow,
with tears in his eyes, embraces the woman
who collapses in his arms. No king, no king
of kings, had ever lit up our hearts like this. No king.


Shahnamah (Book of Kings): 10th Century Persian Epic poem by Ferdowsi, required reading for Muslim rulers in pre-modern India, and frequently commissioned as illustrated manuscripts.
PTV: Pakistan Television Corporation, a state run broadcaster of Pakistan.
Karachi, port and commercial capital of Pakistan.

Raza Ali Hasan, "No King, No King of Kings" 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 (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
More Poems by Raza Ali Hasan