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Steffen Horstmann



Moths with flaming wings swarm around us


Moths with flaming wings swarm around us.

Shrieks stream from the djinns that surround us.


The shaman's flute pipes notes of music

That are visible in the air around us.


The shadows of wraiths slide through fog,

Whispering koans meant to confound us.


Bands of rain dissolve in radiant mirages.

Curtains of white sand shimmer around us.


We dreamed of jewels gleaming in the diadem

Of the Empress whose beauty would astound us.


Blue poppies adorned the garlands

With which a chieftain once crowned us.


Sparks pulsate in hooded shadows rising

From the billowing pyres around us.


As sibyls chant prayers floating embers

Crackle in the sphere of light around us.

[Incense lingers in a tomb where falcons]


Incense lingers in a tomb where falcons

Are embossed on Heer's coffin of light.


On Layla's gown Majnoon's reflection

Wavers in each burnished sequin of light.


From Zabarvan Shiva observes planets teem

Like dust-motes whirling in a margin of light.


Begum Akhtar clothes notes in her voice's silk

As she sings from a palanquin of light.


Hieroglyphs on pyramids depict spectral vortexes

As portals traced to the origin of light.


Darting bulbuls fashion spherical nests

In apricot groves tended by a djinn of light.


By a candle's glow Faiz scratches Zindan-Nama

On a prison wall that gleams like a bulletin of light.


Stars convulse in Krishna's mirror

As the glass radiates with a skin of light.


Gales billow clouds that shed phantasms

Arrayed in a pearled muslin of light.


Shiva meditates within lucent clouds

Flowing above a mountain of light.

Racing shrikes streak the sands with fast shadows


Racing shrikes streak the sands with fast shadows,

Where towering dolmens cast vast shadows.


Bass glisten in rock pools like slick knives,

Silver light glinting in their fast shadows.


As flocks of finches burst from lush plums,

Gold specks mottle their fast shadows.


Voices recite scripts from Etruscan scrolls

As bats bolt through caverns like fast shadows.


−When the screaming winds startle djinns

That race into hills like fast shadows.


−When priests in the catacombs of Thebes

Glimpse flying wraiths like fast shadows.


−When over bluffs & stone barrens

Persian falcons steer fast shadows.


−When across iced valleys Himalayas

Lean into their own vast shadows.

Suma Beach


Bonfires cast dancing shadows at Suma Beach.

Seashells emit whispering echoes at Suma Beach.


Funnel clouds shimmer with sparks, giving rise

To lightning-infused tornadoes at Suma Beach.


Streaming thunder is a visible black river

Flooding bulwarks with echoes at Suma Beach.


A lyre's notes float in blue mist, hushing

The flocks of flamingoes at Suma Beach.


As quicksilver clouds dissolve, minute prisms

Issue from lucent rainbows at Suma Beach.


Phantasms form on iced roads along sea grass,

Rising through turbulent snows at Suma Beach.


Terns huddle on stony shoals as frosted dew

Glazes stalks of yarrows at Suma Beach.


Gales rove verges as hissing sands incite

The shrieks of drongos at Suma Beach.


Agha Shahid Ali taught Steffen Horstmann the ghazal form while he was his student at the University of Arizona. Horstmann´s poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout the world, including: Baltimore Review, Free State Review, Istanbul Literary Review, Louisiana Literature, Oyez Review, Texas Poetry Journal, and Tiferet.

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