Yasmine Seale: A Poem by Dakhtanus bint Laqit

Six images of the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) by Stuart Franklin, 2008. Source: magnumphotos.com

He came early with the news:

the best of Khindif, full-grown

and young combined, is dead.

No one brought their enemies

more fear, nor saved so many

held captive. Their pearl. Excellent

in war, undaunted, always the one

to meet kings: it did them proud

when he spoke. His bloodline

was perfect: you could trace it

back, a column reaching all the way

to the tribe’s origin. As a bright star

spikes the dark, a greater hero

fell upon him, determining

the hour of his death.

The Banu Asad fled

from their masters like birds,

leaving everything behind,

not even stopping in the afternoon

to shelter in the shade of their ascent—

running from the one whose bloodline

was the best, if you were to trace it

through the generations to its source—

Hawazin at their heels, like mice

after the tails of mice.


This late sixth-century poem is the pre-Islamic poet’s elegy for her father, killed at war