Best of the Net 2016  

Learning to Pray

           My father moved patiently
cupping his hands beneath his chin,
           kneeling on a janamaz
then pressing his forehead to a circle
           of Karbala clay. Occasionally
he'd glance over at my clumsy mirroring,
           my too-big Packers t-shirt
and pebble-red shorts,
           and smile a little, despite himself.
Bending there with his whole form
           marbled in light, he looked like
a photograph of a famous ghost.
           I ached to be so beautiful.
I hardly knew anything yet—
           not the boiling point of water
or the capital of Iran,
           not the five pillars of Islam
or the Verse of the Sword—
           I knew only that I wanted
to be like him,
           that twilit stripe of father
mesmerizing as the bluewhite Iznik tile
           hanging in our kitchen, worshipped
as the long faultless tongue of God.

- Kaveh Akbar (from Waxwing Literary Journal)