The Sons of Abdu’l-Baha and Munírih Khánum

A fleeting ray of light.
Then darkness.
Then a brighter ray still.

Four through the first doorway,
Then quickly through the second.
A quick “Marhaba!” – Welcome! from the first Father
Before the welcome of the Second.

Did these four boys know, do they know,
It was supposed to be different —
A longer stint on this plane than the days or weeks
Spent under the worried gaze of Munírih Khánum?
A longer basking in the warmth of that white-turbaned Sun?
A slower orbit around that verdant Planet,
Now rimmed ‘round its southern hemisphere
By cumulus clouds?

Was it simply the cruel accident of birth?
Born to an age before oxygen tents,
And NICUs, and vaccines,
And to a coordinate bereft of clear water
Let alone germ theory?

Or are there accidents of birth?
Were they instead harsh sacrifices to a divine illustration
The demonstration that the world’s holiest, humblest,
And most just man should suffer, four times, no less,
The grief of a father who feeds His babies to the Syrian soil,
To show how little regard this mortal life has for justice?
To show how inscrutable a thing karma really is –
The noblest life rewarded by the deepest imaginable grief?

Or was their quick passage ever ordained —
Those Y chromosomes flaring into existence
In defiance of some divine plan?
Did the growth from that branch have to be, instead, a flower
For the tempo of succession
And the warp and woof of history to unfold just so?
That His authority would not pass until
That old soul with smooth face
Was ready to grasp it?

Whatever the case,
What better way for a weary Servant
To be welcomed to glory,
Than by a quartet of boy sopranos
Singing in four-part harmony …

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