One doesn’t usually come across a poem—a book-length one at that—dedicated to hearsay. ‘Jamali-Kamali: A Tale of Passion in Mughal India’ is, despite the cloying strap line, something you wouldn’t have seen before.
Just out from Mapin in India, and to be released in the US this summer, the 80-page book by American poet Karen Chase imagines the love and longing between Sheikh Jamali—a 16th century Sufi court poet—and Kamali, whose identity is unknown.
The two lie buried in adjoining tombs in an ethereally beautiful monument just off Delhi’s busy Mehrauli-Gurgaon road. According to oral tradition, Kamali was Jamali’s homosexual lover. Other accounts suggest Kamali was his wife, while still others claim the name was Jamali’s nom de plume. In Chase’s account, stanzas such as the one below give reason to believe in the first.
Who is the peacock
here? One day you are,
I love our shifting
How the peafowl
guard us from intruders.