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