My Bornoose

Into this world they tell me I was sent
Wrapt in a bornoose, which was rudely rent
And flung away, by her who first didst touch
My steaming flesh; I never loved her much,
The surly, stolid, sordid, spectral hag:
For never would my star of fortune lag—
No dwarf of earth to oppose my will would dare—
If my sebaceous bornoose she did spare,
And if around my neck, the ajouz says,
It hung, locked in a charm, for twenty days.
But ever since the amulet was torn,
The curse of gods and jinn and men I’ve worn;
And to my flesh it stuck—a Nessus shirt—
Despite the oozing blood, and not spurt
Of power, alas! is left me to control
The stinging tongue of an avenging soul.


From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.