Stone Telling

[HOME]      [ISSUE]      [ARCHIVES]      [ABOUT]      [GUIDELINES]     [BLOG]

Snowbound in Hamadan

by Sofia Samatar

Winter in the rose land.
The roads all snow, but you
slipped free as a crow on white.
You were a poet.


You unpacked your books, hung up your cloak, lit the lamp, and through that winter of impassable roads you traveled the paths of song, those lines rewritten as rain floods wadis in spring, digging them deeper, beloved scars. You wrote: The Pleiades. You wrote: Her breast a pearl.

Flaming dawn.
A pallid noon.
The thirsty earth
open-mouthed among the corpses.
Your great anthology, the Hamasa,
the Book of Valor.

Such pleasure in selection!
The anthologist more than any other knows
the universe is multiple.

You called one section Satires,
another Journeying and Drowsiness,
and another The Dispraise of Women.
What you could not use you left behind,
like Thadhus, your Christian father's name,
hung up on a loom in Damascus.


Oh, old Abu Tammam,
it's more than a thousand years since you wintered in Hamadan.
Why am I still sad?

Why do I feel you're jeering at me,
with your steeds, your slaughter, your captive virgins
trembling among the dunes,
your dispraise of women?

Remind me, old shield-clatterer,
that the universe is multiple,
and that the anthologist's art
is the art of choice.

I'm sorting my books again
Spreading the page again
Adding a note again
Humming the tune again
Striking a line again
Harmony's highwayman
Crafty as Caliban
Snowbound in Hamadan

Draw back the curtain, for I would see the garden in the twilight
and the chapter titles hanging on the trees.

Sofia Samatar is a fantasy writer, poet, and critic, and a PhD student in African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several places, including Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, Bull Spec and Strange Horizons. Her debut novel, A Stranger in Olondria, is forthcoming from Small Beer Press in September 2013. She blogs, mostly about books, at

Read Sofia's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

Photography: B&W flowers under the snow by Pim Pim.