The ghazal has been on my mind for a while now. Since I learned it was Tweetspeak’s theme for October, I’ve been dreaming of its long horns, its powerful and graceful legs that propel it at highway speeds through the lush grasslands of their natural habitat. (If the photographs on the Internet are any indication, though, the cheetah runs much faster. If I have any advice for you when being chased by a cheetah, it’s this: don’t turn. The cheetah will always take you down when you turn.)
So the joke’s on me. The ghazal is not a graceful beast from the savannah grasslands. The ghazal is a poem. No, that’s not even right. The ghazal, according to poet Agha Shahid Ali, is a series of stand-alone couplets which each represent “a stone from a necklace.” The ghazal, neither poem nor gazelle, is a string of poems, in effect, like a string of beads.
But then, the joke’s not on me. Turns out the joke I meant to tell, about the gazelle and the ghazal, is a workable joke after all, since word etymologists believe that gazelle is a derivative of ghazal, Arabic for love poem. Seems poets through the ages have compared their beautiful women to gazelles. (Clearly, they were not looking at National Geographic’s photographs of the cheetahs, because these were not the best days for the gazelle.)
And it’s no wonder all the ghazals sing of unrequited love. The gazelles keep falling prey to the cheetahs.
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