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Poetry

Past sundown
you bring me here,
my first time inside
a mosque. Men
sitting cross-legged
on the floor
beside their teacher
briefly look up at us,
then turn back, on fire
to hear the word.

You ramble on
in praise of Muslim
art, exquisite
painted tiles, floral
carvings in teak,
your speech articulate
as a docent’s, beauty
your God. Abruptly

a young man kneeling
on the carpet
flings his body flat,
arms stretched out
to the divine
unseen. Not even ecstasy

stops you. I blush
for your blind spot,
my complicity.
Your handkerchief
keeps slipping from
my hair. We exit
through doors
whose workmanship
you extol. Lilacs
are dying in the garden.

I’m reminded
of a curious dream:
a white mosque in moonlight,
the dome luminous,
the cut-outs in stone
intriguing
as the labyrinth
in Chartres. I saw it
as if looking down
with a bird’s eye, swirls
of sculpted openwork
inviting me in. A dream
I’ll never tell you.

Tonight the wind
on the Potomac
is tearing up the moon’s
reflection
as if it were a painful
photograph, scraps
of light riding
the dark water,
tossing and grieving.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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