From Crush (Yale University Press, 2005).
In Middle Eastern mythology, Scheherazade is the one who tells stories to delay her death.
King Shahryar, the reigning monarch, has recently discovered his first wife’s infidelity. In a state of rage, he resolves to sleep with a new virgin every night, then behead her at dawn before she has the chance to sleep with another man. After he has killed many women in this way, Scheherazade volunteers to be his bride. On the night they are to be married, she asks for a final wish: that she is allowed to say goodnight to her sister for the last time. Seeing no harm in such a request, the king grants the wish and accompanies Scheherazade to her sister’s bedroom. But when they arrive, Scheherezade’s sister has a request of her own. As the two sisters have secretly arranged beforehand, she asks Scheherazade to tell her a final story. Scheherazade begins the story. The king is transfixed. Scheherezade continues telling the story; soon, dawn is threading through the window. The king begs her to continue. She says she can only continue the story if she is allowed to see the next night. The king agrees. Scheherazade doesn’t die.
‘Tonight / we don’t die and don’t die’ (Ilya Kaminsky, Deaf Republic.)
Quick! quick! ‘he asks for ink to be brought / he says writing something down keeps it alive’ (Andrew McMillan, Physical.)
May all beings everywhere be free of pain.