This long, long night

Khanum, of what shall we speak?
Of dashed hopes, of aching limbs,
of damaged loves and broken hearts?
But please, do not bestir Yourself.
If we do not pray in words then surely
through this long, long night our silence will say it all:
of our hope for that gentle kiss to send us into the mist,
of our fear to hear the quietest of sounds floating in the dark,
of our wait for the darkest shadows to reach out before the dawn…
And as I drift now—as You drifted then—this I know,
I will never weep alone again.

In Persian, the word “Khanum” is a term of great respect when added to a woman’s name and can be roughly translated as “Lady.” It’s pronunciation is a little tricky: the opening “Kh” is like “ha” but said with a little guttural sound. All together it is pronounced “Kha-num.”

In this poem it is directed to Varaqiy-i-‘Ulyá, or, in English, the Greatest Holy Leaf, the designated title of the daughter of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith; She passed from this world in 1932, the last of Her generation. The Greatest Holy Leaf was universally known for Her purity, kindness, strength, determination, humility and Her constant service to Her Father, who said of Her, I can well inhale from thee the fragrance of My love and the sweet-smelling savour wafting from the raiment of My Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous. Be astir upon God’s Tree in conformity with thy pleasure and unloose thy tongue in praise of thy Lord amidst all mankind.

Such was Her loving nature and sense of kindness and humility that She was, in that Household, commonly addressed as “Khanum,” and was indeed, the Khanum.

Thank you for reading This long, long night. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,


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5 responses to “This long, long night

  1. philwilke

    John, I hope that “time of great stress in your life” has long since passed.

  2. Phil, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? But no, actually, it’s not. But this is life. One of the most important qualities of life that I have tried to teach my kids is endurance. There are some things that can’t be “managed” or delayed, or got rid of, or escaped from, or avoided…they must just be endured, while you wait patiently for resolution.

  3. philwilke

    John, I’m sorry to hear this. I hope it comes to an acceptable resolution soon.

  4. A beautiful sentiment, eloquently and compassionately expressed in companionable forbearance. Quite lovely john.