Zanjir – Adham Smart














We beg the Merciful not to condemn us,
we were not born—
In ourselves we find the men who spilt
his blood, we feel their hot breath
on our hearts, their teeth fill our mouths
and bite our tongues. We beat
them out of our bleeding bodies, by hand
and by nail and by clawed metal
creatures, we expel and we eschew and
we exhale and we chant and dance,
we dance the dance with chain and chant,
we peel skin and flay flesh and our
backs look like they did the day we were
born, and when the ground is dyed
and quenched and there is blood on our
faces and tears in our wounds and
our hands are raw from the mourning,
the beating, when all the kids see
when they shut their eyes is dad lying
in the dirt, wailing and crying
and tearing his hair, when our
bodies are just huge masses of
scar and our minds are scars and
we talk with scarred words and think
in scars and scar everything we touch and
we eat scarred meat and drink scarred water
and we ourselves are scars and we study scarred
books and read them to our scarbabies, look how
pretty they’ve grown—
the day when we grieve before we breathe
is the day he will return and we will bury
our arsenal of love. But then who will we be?

Zanjir II


How’s this for a souvenir?
A hundred thousand tears that will never dry,
that will weep for him every time you put a shirt on.
You can date each regiment of ridges:
this was my first, when I was a child,
this was my wedding year,
this was in India with the swords.
When I touch your back I can hear
the Sun pounding on your skin, and in the pit
of my navel
I feel the roar
and in the desert the lion chews its lips to ribbons,
and in the river the fish writhe and boil,
and in the sky the dove tears out its feathers,
and in the city the men beat themselves with whirling chains.
The mountains cry in scree and sand.
The sea pours into the saddened land.
Live like Ali, die like Hussein.
It’s كل أرض كربلاء again.




One Halloween, a night so dread the chocolates trembled

in their shells, a man and a pumpkin shared their love

to the sound of recorded wedding bells. Congratuceptions

to the happy couple! But, buried in the seeds of mother P,

a gene sequence of unacceptable horror

was on the brood. One pip-swollen gestation season later,

the children of men and legume breached the womb.

It was an ugly harvest, with too few fingers and too much pulp,

but among the writhing roots there lurked

an intelligence of fructivorous proportions. The cream

of the crop, the son of sperm and spore, and Lord,

was he a monster to adore. Father lifted him from the mess,

compared this child with all the rest,

with his heartbreak smile and terracotta chest,

and Father knew him to be the best.


The years carved beauty into him like a sculptor with a chisel

of frozen holy water, but he gave off an air, a pheromone,

that made the girls leave him alone. For under his trousers lay

a secret that he was loathe to bring to light. Between his legs

there sprouted nothing but a mass of nodes and nematodes,

and other vegetalia. This shameful growth remained unseen

until his eighteenth Halloween. At a party where people

paraded with pumpkin masks on their sweaty faces, our hero

tucked himself into a corner, his veins all thick with loneliness.

But then, he caught a splendid scent, and there,

across the room, with hair like the fronds of a golden fern,

was a girl with a pumpkin mask and chestnut eyes.

She whisked him to an empty room left fallow by the guests.

In the earthy dark she kissed his lips, and booming visions

of soil filled his mind. He lifted her skirt with a quivering hand,

and then he knew. She whispered in his ear:

“I have the same foliage as you.”


They ran outside into the frost, shrieking and yelling with delight.

They dug the earth fast and deep, and dug themselves out of sight.

Their vegetable love was more than pollination,

and down they dug,

to live and love,

and forge a pumpkin nation.




Adham Smart is an Anglo-Egyptian boy occupying a small area of Southeast London. Since winning the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2006, he has been published in a handful of places, including a poem in the Rialto, a couple of short stories for The Cadaverine and a digital chapbook on the Mimesis website, and was selected for the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards 2008 and 2009. In 2009 he read at the Houses of Parliament to celebrate Siegfried Sassoon’s collected writings being bought by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. He also helps to run the online youth poetry magazine Pomegranate ( Take a look at it to find some of the juiciest poems on the web.