Steffen Horstmann

Blue Thunderhead    III

Desert winds whisper sutras in Dari today.

Sikh mystics chant mantras in Domari today.


The shadows of panthers emerge from a forest,

Dissolving in mist rising from the Chari today.


The voices of Furies persist in gales raving

At the abandoned temple of Circe today.


In Kashgar’s glistening mirages

Figs ripen to a tint of dark honey today.


Whirling leaves have become notes of music

Breezes hum at the graves of the Shoshone today.


Inca doves singing in the olive groves

Emulate the voice of Calliope today.


“From night till night and now … As easily as song–”

Wailing shells thrash trenches at Gallipoli today.


Djinns inhabit catacombs echoing

Scriptures sages chant in Sivandi today.


Vishnu levitates above the Sarasvati today.

Whirlwinds thrash temples in Amravati today.


Falcons rise from the tombs of the Anasazi today.

Winds polish relics in the ruins of Ghazi today.




Shadow of the Djinn

Raindrops fall like pearls

Around its shadow.


A band of silver light swirls

Around its shadow.


The shaitan’s voice whirls

Around its shadow.


Darkness a cloak the wind hurls

Around its shadow.


A speck of gold dust whirls

Around its shadow.


White sand streams in whorls

Around its shadow.


[As starfish emit gold auras in deep sea caves]

As starfish emit gold auras in deep sea caves,

Schools of krill glisten in translucent waves.


Pink locusts ravage millet crops in the Sahel

When Harmattan winds stream in radiant waves.


Salt dunes glint in coastal wastes where the sky

Is a sea surging with clouds shaped like waves.


Silver fig trees inhabit mirages on plains

Patrolled by the militias of warring enclaves.


Jasmine incense coils from stone lanterns

As sages summon rain with timbrels & claves.


Kafra’s fortresses collapsed on the tombs

Of gilded mummies in a labyrinth of caves.


The Corinthian sun throbs like a heart,

Evaporating blue mists flowing from caves.


Thunder hushed the massacre of the Ma’dan,

With dust still uneasy on their hurried graves.


Petrified anemones adorn stone coffins

In the burial chambers of Coptic naves.


Where Marian Apparitions Appear

Where crystals are shattered by a djinn’s shriek.

Where from scriptured vases oracles speak.


Where a phoenix’s shadow inhabits

The white smoke of smouldering teak.


Where in webbed catacombs sibyls

Recite Homer in Latin & Greek.


Where circling falcons form vortexes

In sapphire skies jet streams streak.


Where orchards swarm with butterflies

That migrated from Martinique.


Where Marian apparitions appear

At secret shrines sages seek.



The Crowned Knot of Fire

“All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.”

̶ T.S. Eliot



Chords floating from strings

Of an Orphic lyre.


Moths with flaming wings

Swarming a coastal pyre.


White diamonds studding

A Byzantine spire.


Saffron clouds shredded

By a whirling gyre.


Blue light streaming

From a Persian sapphire.


A rose forming within

The crowned knot of fire.


As Agha Shahid Ali’s student, Steffen Horstmann  studied the history of the ghazal form and began writing his own ghazals in English. Horstmann’s poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout the world, including Baltimore ReviewFree State ReviewIstanbul Literary ReviewLouisiana LiteratureOyezReview, Texas Poetry Journal and Tiferet. His book of English ghazals Jalsaghar was published in 2016.