Zeeshan Khan Pathan

Walter Benjamin

Today I counted the ruinous
Days of internment, the stateless
Prison escapees

On the blue boat sinking
Into the white.

The water so tragic
It burned the edges of my tongue
Until the end of the world.

The fog in the air
Lifted off the waves and left ash cold

On the night’s vexed forehead.

The hidden angst (inside him) ripened
To a full-blown disease

And whole centuries of rubble, Walter Benjamin,
Fill the palm lines of your hands.



The Minister of Disturbances

[Into the mic]

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen…

I stand before you today to offer sympathies on the deaths of a 100,000
flowers mowed down in the garden of Damascus

I stand before you today to explain away the blood-drenched
images in the civil war between petunias and carnations…

In the gut-wrenching war between hyacinths and damask roses—

[Here he reads from a transcript]

          Official statement from the Ministry of Butchery and Nowhere:

We offer our condolences today

On the birth of a flower
In the alley between two alleys
In the spaces of invisibilities and tear gas canisters

We offer our condolences today

On the baptisms of twenty village wild flowers,
On the marriage of two lovesick roses,

We offer our condolences today

On the executions of forty-six jasmine bushes
In Al-Bab
On the passing away of two parent flowers

In the city of Homs,
And in the city of Aleppo—

We encourage hope for the children

Left behind by an unfortunate father flower
Who died in a massive missile strike by a rogue flower.

We cannot be questioned. In this age of surveillance,
We already know what you are thinking. And we have nothing else

To say for a flower that dares to question our authority.



In Place of a Mouth

A cage of bees, another
Prison to enter in and sleep inside of
On the floor of a manacled

Garden forlorn by the color
Of despair, and blood

A refraction of

Sunlight against the optic nerve

Eye splitting rays teetering
Against an irreversible alley of your own.




You are invisible.
Your birds are dead.

You have no more rivers.
Your grass is dead.

You are the earth of the dying—
You are the land of fracture,

The seat of pain,
The devastation of a night—

Spent in loneliness
Waiting for a beloved that won’t return…

You are the darkness of every night
That a prisoner spent in a jail

Writing poetry
You are the barbed darkness

O motherland
You are not my mother

And I am not your son:
I do not have any chain

Leading back to you.
Not even my mouth can spell your name—

O forgotten village,
You are the wound and the ledge,

How many scars are there
Under my shirt?

How would you know?
You never took me in your arms.



Zeeshan Khan Pathan attended Washington University in Saint Louis as a Kenneth E. Hudson Scholar where he studied poetry with Mary Jo Bang, Carl Phillips, and Fatemeh Keshavarz. He speaks several languages and translates from Urdu, Turkish, & Persian. At Columbia University, he received a fellowship to study poetry at the graduate level and he completed his M.F.A. under Lucie Brock-Broido. Zeeshan is interested in world literature and literary theory, the poetry of the Middle East and India, and he also writes short fiction. His poetry has been featured in Tarpaulin Sky Press Magazine and poems are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, in an anthology of contemporary American Muslim writings by Red Hen Press, and in other journals.