Sahar Romani

Have you not seen that all those who are in the heavens and all those who are in the earth prostrate themselves before Allah, and so do the sun and the moon, and the stars and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts, and so do many human beings…
—Al-Qur’an 22:18

Here you are nearest
        to where you are from

                        But when my mouth forgets
                                    to bow in ode


                        am I departing from a self
                                    I was meant to become

After birth my father palmed a path
            with his hand to my ear

                        as his father did once
                                    whispered a call in Arabic

Come to prayer Come to success…
There is none worthy of worship except—

                        I learned scripture in sound before sense
                                    memorized music without meaning

How long since the choir
            of my toes, tenor of my knees

                        kneeled east, northeast
                                    towards a door of worship

Does God need a door
            if God is everywhere

                        I wish my mother answered
                                    it was never for God

our choreography of the body
            sequence of attention

                        There was an era
                                    I offered my head

five times a day
            along the arc of the sun

                        muscled with belief
                                    or by histories of posture

after posture until I could not see
            between habit and conviction

                        the way I kissed a woman once
                                    though we were no longer lovers

my shoulders dipped into hers
            as if I pooled into the past

                        or did I ripple towards a future
                                    with knowledge

my mouth did not yet know
            how to shape into syllable

                        The prayer rug still waits near the window
                                    in case tomorrow

my spine folds and lifts
            heart above head
                         a gesture I loved as a child
                                    without understanding

Sahar Romani is a poet and educator. Her poems appear in The Believer, Guernica, Poetry Society of America, and elsewhere. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and NYU, where she earned an MFA and teaches first-year writing.
Originally published:
September 20, 2021


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