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Let me begin again, I say, as the bar blurs
invisible, its volume reduced to the merest
suggestion of others and it’s just us spotlit
in the black womb-like silence of theatre
and your question themes the play; let me
begin again: I went to church last Sunday.
The pastor preached: put not your faith in
man who only is good as his next breath;
align your faith with he who gives breath.
Here I stutter, my answer splintering like
fragments of bone against the mud soil
of memory. Moments before, I recalled
the call to prayer: In the Name of Allah
Most Gracious, Most Merciful – the slow
unfurling Imam’s son’s voice as dusk
touched the courtyard, the dust settling,
the sun solemnly bowed on the horizon –
thin as a prayer mat – and the gathered
performing ablutions: Bismillah, they say,
washing hands, mouths, nostrils, faces,
arms, head, ears, feet, kneeling to pray
Allah Is Great, God Is Great, they say.
You counter with airplanes, fireballs,
towers falling; stop your rant with
the first fireman to die, his skull caved
by a jumper from the 51st floor fleeing
flames. In the name of Allah, Gracious,
Great, Merciful this was done, you say.
I mention Amazing Grace, how sweet
the choir leader swayed in white robes,
eyes closed, humming southern baptist
hymn hypnotic, sailing congregations
to the oceanic depth whence his tears:
wide and sure as waves ride back and
forth that everything would be all right.
You rejected faith again, describing Jos,
Nigeria, the girl watching flat amongst
tall grass: the squad of Christian men
who hold her mother down as another
swings down with a machete, down as
sunlight skates the blade’s edge, down,
the last swing, the fragments of bone
and there are screams no more.
There’s blood in the drama of Men and
Gods, you say: rivers of it flow through
our wounded earth, gush from scripts
in houses of worship and act after act
aren’t all stained? except the audience?
the secular astray? You gesture toward
those seated in darkness who gawk as we
squabble on stage; aren’t they the ones
the light beyond will touch unbloodied?
who will die hands clean?
… Let me begin again, I say, I went to
church/the pastor preached/faith/man
/breath/… I stutter, the bar blurs back
to life, words falls against your ears.