Where did the whole world
come from, Daddy,
and all the countries and all the people
and the paper towels and light bulbs?
One day the gurgle, the next the girl
with small fingers of joy
in the sounds of hopscotch, bungee, budge
securely interlaced with yours.
Why then this flutter within the thorax,
the gunmetal streaks
marring the aquamarine lagoon,
the cold scrutiny of the border guards?
They tell you it’s a Wonder, a memorial
to love (Shah Jahan for Mumtaz, his wife,
and perhaps, by extension, of all men
for their wives, and vice versa, why not,
even for the very concept of Love,
and not only the Earthly),
that words can never do it justice
nor the glossy photos in the coffee table books;
plus there’s the poignant fact
Jahan was imprisoned across the river
by his son, Aurangzeb, just before
the dome was finally joined, and thus condemned
to view the finished edifice he’d never entered
every day those last few years of his long life.
So you show up at 6 AM, part
the burgeoning horde of vendors,
already your sweat-soaked shirt’s
glommed to your back, and lo!: shimmering
at a distance, immaculate
white marble and twinned waterborne white reflection
filling the archway with that roseate glow,
taking everyone’s breath and yours
as it was meant to do. But they don’t tell you
Mumtaz had fourteen children and died in childbirth
at 38, and Jahan had many other wives
who comforted him
and bore him many children
while he held dominion two more decades
before Aurangzeb began to reign.
"The Taj" first published in JAMA, and in Ripe, selected by Edward Hirsch for Felix Pollak Prize.
"Conundrum" first published in the Gettysburg Review, and in Fuchsia in Cambodia.
Roy Jacobstein is the author of five collections of poetry, including Fuchsia in Cambodia (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2008), which contains “Conundrum”; A Form of Optimism (Northeastern U Press, 2006), chosen by Lucia Perillo for the Samuel French Morse Prize; and Ripe (U Wisconsin Press, 2002), which contains “The Taj,” and was selected by Edward Hirsch for the Felix Pollak Prize. His poetry appears in The Threepenny Review, Southern Review, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, Parnassus, and other literary journals, as well as in LITERATURE: Reading Fiction, Poetry & Drama (McGraw-Hill, 2006).