…when i find myself in Chicago and when,
travelling northwards out of the city, I pass the
Bahai temple there, I feel that in some sense this
beautiful building may be a portent of the future.

—Arnold Toynbee


The government photographer
went everywhere to record
the ascendancy of the Qajar kings
over the obstinate sect
that refused taqíyyih,
but the camera would not lie.

Badí the wonderful one
kneels placidly
left hand cupped in reverence
right hand at rest
on his robed thigh
like an aged yogi
surrounded by an entourage
of obedient initiates;

 his mouth is firmly set,
his eyes grimly peaceful‑‑
one hardly notices
the huge chain links
around his young neck
grasped at either end
by captors
who seem troubled
as if they’d rather be
somewhere else,
beside a country stream,
tending an afternoon
they know
there is something
odd in all this.

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