The Horseman


Suddenly stirring from her chair,

my daughter to the window flew,

streaming her treasure of flaxen hair,

hearing the call once I heard too,

and I knew, yes I knew, O God, what she would see.

And yes, she, pointing at the willow tree,

looking back at me, said

“O mother, mother come and see,

there is a horseman calling me,

calling softly by the tree.

His horse is pale as the moonlight

and he wears a hooded cloak,

but he has no flesh, O mother,

quickly, come and see.

He smiles with bone, O mother,

and he’s calling me.”

“Do not go to him,” I cried,

“Answer not his call.

You are too young to be his bride,

he at the last shall be denied,

I instead shall with him ride.”

“But he calls to me so sweetly,

I cannot resist.

His voice compels me so completely,

who is he?

Why does he so persist?”

“He is an angel of the dead, my child,

and once, when I was young and wild,

this covenant he made with me

while I was dying and you aborning.

To take me now, and let you be,

Or leave us both to live that morning,

but return in fifteen years and three

to marry you by the willow tree,

and I accepted, child, fearfully!

For with the foresight of his kind,

he saw you fair of form and face,

to his mind, fairest of the human race.

One to wed as his great prize,

till the world is ended and the dead arise.

He intends you to forever dwell

where the first of his kind fell

beside the lake of frozen fire,

in Lucifer’s eternal hell.”

Yes, he thinks my child to take,

leave me sleep, and then awake

as from a dream, but for your sweet sake

I will enact a desperate deceit.

Robe in your dress, pray he does not guess

till it’s too late, and my long due fate complete.

Damned I’ll be, but you I’ll hide

from he who rode by Satan’s side

in the war of heaven.

And perhaps, at the last,

even I may be forgiven.

Thus she took her own child’s dress

and a hat with heavy veil

to hide her elder, tear-streaked face,

kissed once her daughter, her joy, her pride,

then threw the door open wide

and to the willow tree did race,

leaped on his horse, became his bride

as her daughter softly cried.

He, never glancing to the side,

merely gestured and the mist departed,

not knowing his voice,

which was his power and his pride,

failed him by a mother’s love

on this particular moonlight ride.

– Irving Karchmar  © 1986

10 Responses to The Horseman

  1. Abdur Rahman says:

    Salaams Irving bhai,

    Ma sha Allah, this poem has a really strong sense of atmosphere. It reminded me of several things: numerous ghost stories (headless horseman amongst others), fallen angels (shades of master of the jinn eh?) and above all, the strength of a mother’s Love.

    Ya Allah!

    May Allah reward you Irving for this beautiful poem.

    Abdur Rahman

  2. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Abdur Bhai (Brother in Urdu):

    Thank you for the kind comments :) The poem was written long ago. The full moon recently, and a post on the moon at Koonj’s blog, recalled it to my mind. It always gives me goosebumps lol.

    Ya Haqq!

  3. Koonj says:

    It is very goosebump-inducing, dear Irving, and I love it. I really enjoyed the idea of the moon as a pale horseman with no flesh that beckons from the window. Please share more poetry.

  4. Suroor says:

    My God Irving! It is AMAZING. I hadn’t read Konnj’s response but I was going to write that you did in fact give me goose-bumps! I loved where you wrote “failed him by a mother’s love.” I simply loved it. Inshallah I’ll read it to Mariam tonight. Thank you!

  5. captures the willingness and desire of every parent to take on the burdens and sufferings of their children rather than see the child have to suffer. marvelous.

  6. Sadiq says:

    what a powerful imagery!

  7. Maliha says:

    Mashaallah! Wow. Mashaallah!

    I love how you turned a poem into a saga of its own. It’s gorgeous!

    I agree, please do share more of your poetry!

  8. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brothers and Sisters:

    Thank you all :) All my poetry that has been posted on this blog is collected in the blogroll under the My Poetry category. As a new poem is added, it will also be collected in the category.

    Ya Haqq!

  9. rama says:

    Magnificent! Thank you dear brother for sharing this.

    Best, rama

  10. Beautiful and have a very happy Birthday indeed!

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