So I’m back at my old childhood masjid for winter break and I head over on my own and I pray and I sit and I have never felt this way before and so I write about it: (note: poem edited April 2018)
This masjid is no longer mine to swallow.
i cough up
bits of its memory like
old, crooked floors now stripped down
and leveled out again,
with shiny new tiles pressed in place.
What was once dusty has now turned to glistening newness.
and all the old corners
i used to burry my secrets in
have been bulldozed and cookie-crumbled
to make room for new mothers
with new children.
How much more can the house of God expand itself and not loose its luster?
the magic in these prayer rugs
now worn down
by so many people who are worn down
and their feet can’t help but drag along behind them.
I wonder about how big they all used to seem.
—the shoes, the feet, the people, the walls—
when I was younger
and I wanted to consume the world.
never been as hungry for this home as I was then
nor as desiring of its old self as I am now.
I have moved to a new place but left parts of me here.
in this old bulletin board,
and this hallowed elevator
and the sanctity of this staircase
and Baba’s old office
now belongs to someone else.
The hallways have been colonized by new kids.
my friends and i don’t recognize their faces
who are they anyway?
this was our turf to strut and scream and recite
and now younger soles fill up the shoe racks instead.
They were so proud when they told us about this expansion.
i wasn’t home for the ribbon cutting
or the welcome address, which someone recorded and
i watched but it was never mine to have to begin with
and so it did not taste like anything I knew,
or wanted to remember.
I have grown up now.
my appetite has weakened
and I have learned how to live while hungry.
i am no longer full of fury
i am no longer pulling myself into the shape of a woman
because my mouth can be quiet now for hours and it could not before.
This place was not meant for silence.
back then it was for the echoing booms of basketballs
dubbed over by laugher in what was the prayer hall
and also a wedding & carnival & concert hall
and also a funeral hall
and now it is just an old gymnasium.
I was young then.
we all were.
we discovered beauty and mistook it for love
and tasted desire and mistook it for love
and found books and mistook them for God
and we didn’t know any better.
We waited here for teachers.
and got second mothers and fathers instead
and so Here Lies a Generation
that Half Starved to Death
while the other half ate too much of this drywall and concrete playground
until their stomachs killed the whole’s of them
They tried to feed us their leftovers
—the Uncles and ‘Ammus and Aunties and Khalas—
but we have already seen how this meal shriveled them.
so we settle for less than enough,
go on a fasting strike
as this sacred burial ground of who we used to be
is gentrified by the Next New Wave of Worshippers
who do not know our names,
but will remember our fathers’ instead.