Let us go, Adnan!
This is Al-Mi’raj, the holiest of all holy nights,
The night when the Messenger, in a twinkling,
Experienced the most majestic sights.
I follow my older brother,
Eyes glued on the dinner table.
My mind already munches
The crushed sesame bread
With salty kashar cheese
And the sweetest jams,
Orange and raspberry.
Hop scotching the cobblestones, I try
My phonics on the electrical signs
Placed between the minarets
Against the dark winter sky:
MOHAMMED OUR BELOVED PROPHET
SYMBOL OF HOPE YOUR ASCENT
GOD THE INCOMPARABLE
THE HIDDEN AND THE MANIFEST
During the prayer, I mimic an old man
On the right hand side of the first row.
He bends forward. I bend forward.
He stands straight. I stand straight.
He moves his lips. I do the same:
I whisper some little sounds.
Without any warning, everybody stops.
The imam coughs: a hymn starts as a murmur.
My stomach begs in despair
O my God, the Merciful,
Don’t let them take too long
— Which He does.
A sudden fear grumbles in my belly:
A mosque is a dangerous place to be:
If you think things other than prayers
You get for sure a satanic face.
Back at home, before I even touch
The sesame bread,
I look in the mirror.
Just in case!
Boston, MA. 1997. This poem is printed here with the permission of the author.
Listen to Adnan Onart’s On Being interview, “Revealing Ramadan.”