poetry// the light

after Caroline Rothstein
& in honor of the victims of the
March 2019 
terror attacks in
Christchurch, New Zealand

The Thing about life is that it is tiny
small and petite
can be folded up neatly and tucked six feet under
The Thing about life is death
is quietude amidst noise
is departure from world to reality
from myth to meaning
from temporary space
to home.

The Thing about a mosque is
that it is a masjid is that it
has a musallah is that it hold bodies tightly together foot to foot
shoulder to shoulder
The Thing is that your head has to touch the ground at some point someone’s
nose buried deep into the green and gold carpet
the imam’s voice crackling through the microphone
or bouncing off the walls five times
a day.

The Thing about the walls is that they are built to swell
we waddle through the masjid doors as babies,
teetering on gentle shoes
placed next to an auntie’s on the shelf.
we march through the hallways as teenagers
we tuck our legs under the sunday school chairs
until they are too small
and we are married and soon introducing our own young to the
sacredness of the shoe rack
and the stack of mushafs on the second floor.

The Thing about jummah
is that it is a gathering
is that it is always on Friday
is that the word for Friday is Jumuah
is that it can be found in any city
in a basement
in a huge mosque
in a rented out room in a synagogue
we don’t wait for permission to pray
we just do. we must. this is how we have chosen
to survive.

The Thing about murder is that it is impossible.
you cannot take what belongs to God when your very
hands are not your own. we walk through the earth
knowing it was our mother. that we rose from her
that this is but a long walk home and the destination could appear at any corner
that martyrdom preserves bodies when we think they have
been conquered. that souls live on. that prayer for
the deceased only increase them in rank
floating higher and higher and higher with every angelic
recording, like a balloon released from the gentle
hand of a child
on eid morning
at the masjid festival.

The Thing about injustice is that it
is but an illusion. there is nothing that
shall remain out of balance. there is nothing
that will remain askew.
evil trades so much for so little
for victory in the smallest sense of the word
Judgement Day is running behind all of us
without pause or brake
or wonder for any of
our small and fragile bones
mere specks
in the time-lapse of the universe.
the oppressed of this world crowned
triumphant in the next
for eons upon eons upon eons into infinity

The Thing about dying is Janazah
is that we mourn our dead before we bury then
that a Janazah usually happens in the masjid
that it is so blessed to have a Janazah. on a Friday.
that the congregation gathers behind a washed,
departed soul,
& prays & prays & prays
tears traverse cheeks and drip down to lips invoking only
God’s holiest names. the
sounds of faith rising through the air, leaving only sweetness in its wake.

but what is it to die praying in the very place you are supposed to be prayed over?
to have lost those to stand behind you in your own remembrance–
but to have gained a whole world
of prayers & prayers & prayers
an ocean of grief calling for the expansion of your grave,
echoing your name like waves honoring the shore
pleading with God to only station you
and higher
& higher
& higher
& higher
& higher

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