For Children

J.J. Yu

Constellation: The Birth of the Caliphate

7th & 8th Grade Poetry Winner


Their names are written in the empty sky—
four words, each with a promise of its own,
fluorescent letters shining oh so high—
above the seeds of people they had sown.

I sit, I feel a deep and primal urge
to reach and touch the letters in the air—
Mohammed, dear, your absence is a scourge,
oh you and I, my friend, were quite the pair.

I know this story is so very old,
but I believe we should rehearse again,
(including all the colors never told),
in the voices of those very men.

Abu Bakr, the father of them all,
elected prematurely, many think,
but when his Caliphate began to fall,
he pulled the Umma right back from the brink.

Omar the Conqueror was strong and fair,
with temper flashing, the East fell at his hand—
to fight against him, many would not dare,
all this was his: the people and the land.

Othman, the humble—charming—happy man,
still searching for some meaning to his life,
he made mistakes…that number you can
think of, causing almost our endless strife.

Ali, the one with round and tired eyes,
elected in the chaos, cracks begin
to form between the people as he tries
to fight a battle he can never win.

And me? Ayesha, I’m the Prophet’s wife,
daughter of the first caliph, I’m born to fight
for Him and for His message with my life,
until appears the rosy morning light.

Abu Bakr:

The morning you died, I woke up
to the cries of my daughter, in whose lap
your corpse lay. They saw it
as a tragedy, your death—
but you and I both know it was
a betrayal, first and foremost.

(I trusted you)

The night before your eyes went dull,
you promised you would say goodbye.
You told me of how Mecca was now
within our grasp, and we made
plans for a new era of faith.

(you broke that promise)

There were stories, stories of my life,
and yours, and of celebration and anguish—
under the stars of the Islamic night,
we both yearned for the past.

(I did not get a goodbye)

And when you left for the city,
to broker some impossible trade between
immature and the selfish, I wept.

(I see you sometimes, in the sky)

I wept for you, Mohammed, and for
your memory, and for mine.

(you smile, and call to me)

Only the sky is large enough for your ambitions.

(and we will share it, you beautiful traitor—
you, who put off ‘goodbye’ with a promise,
you, who broke that promise,
you, who calls to me now—
we will share it.)


i lay the bricks
beneath the crackling sun
bead of sweat runs between my shoulder blades
tongue dry with exertion
Allah’s gaze on my back, the bricks simmer
in the empty heat.
mortar is quicksilver beneath my powerful hands
golden sand is siphoned through my fingers.

i lay the bricks, for you
Mohammed, the architect of dreams and faith
i lay the bricks, one
by one, until the moon emerges in the sky, and
i rest
until you call on me again.


it is under the sun-bleached sky
i speak to you in desperation as
our world, which you so carefully
constructed, crumbles at my feet.

it is on the golden sand that
the mob erupted in anger,
hate coursing through their veins,
fear coursing through mine.

it is in my private quarters i search
the teachings of Allah, your revelations
for a verse that will rescue me from
temptation, from the chasing demons.

it is in my private quarters i am murdered
beaten by the ones i have oppressed in
your name, crying out for mercy and for
dignity in my execution.

it is in the sky i write your name
with trembling hands, and pray that
Allah will lift the souls of the
people from my back.


I command
crimson-stained sands
the broken body of an empire—
a legion of the dead, the
tired, the
hungry, the
grieving, the

I have fate in a headlock—
feel the sweat on his scalp and
my hands on his neck as we
become one. i can’t take it anymore,
I can’t do this anymore,
I need someone to save me, I
taste blood as he twists and
flips me to the ground—
feel his hot breath on my nape
and try to pull away, but it’s too late

too late

too late for me to say what i wanted to,
to tell my brother,
my cousin,
my savior
that I wish him well on
Judgement Day, too late
for him to say goodbye,

too late

for one last prayer

too late

for one last fight

too late
for me, the last caliph—

too late.