صلاة الغائب / Salat al-Gha’ib

It is God who created you from dust and later from a drop of fluid; then He made you into two[.]
               —Qur’an 35:111


Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’
               —Gen 2:182

And melt until they bend into waxen tessellations all of
our doubts, honeycomb wings we break when, climbing pyramids of
thoughts, we open our arms to new things and fall
off into an embrace like a garden fragrant as fruit

which has fallen, bees finding belief in the belly of
time we waste, ‘Work is a curse so never make
it a habit, wriggle out of the marginalia,’
you told
me, ‘Give thanks to your sustainer everyday for having made

you as talented as you are intelligent; all you have
to do is think and what you imagine you create,’

without talking, tasting your name in my mouth changes the
way I think, inks onto the two of us things

I cannot translate, taking on tears the way an ocean
liner does water when it hits on the point, I
sink into a prayer for a soldier whose body has
not been found, aching for your flame to sublimate the

pain of this iceberg widening the sea under my feet,
life is nourishment, growth and decay through itself, enough of
a punishment without having another to lift up this thing
I carry across the worlds I wander, grief at being

               uprooted, a dead limb I cannot bury, without whose shadow

I am as powerless as a flower without an answer,
a sunset without colour, a parting without a partner to
populate memories of the moment something ended, a proposal without
a lover to question, master of (t)his absence’s vastness, an

empire of mercenaries murderously efficient in killing my spirit as
ancient Ashurbanipal hunting lions in winter and finding instead Nebuchadnezzar
writhing in an unbridled fit of madness, contented with his
splintered Self, dark as the eyeless Atacama, I am a

fusion of beauty and brutality, I who counted its gods
and goddesses as my guests, treated them to incalculable riches,
am now miserable and inconsolable for having let the wilderness
of loneliness tear me to shreds, I am futility to

foolishness wed, approaching our enemy poorly armed with a pen
in my belt alongside a sword, an emissary without a
letter’s comfort to hoard or a road forward to course
as love’s courier, allegories astride fantastic beasts, we go together,

or did, the way letters do in a word, one
soul in two bodies, Aristotelian nerds as versed in the
corpus of Hermes as we are, or were, in the
alchemy of Geber, religiously literate merchants of the ludicrous offering

               the herd a hidden pattern underlying the world’s inconclusive confusions,

asking them then of theirs when we should have been
contemplating how reliable are our ceremonies, tacit facets we cannot
face, your laugh was the verb of Enoch, a secret
you trusted me with and which I misplaced, I took

a breath and let it out, wisdom escaped, eluding me
ever since, I was good in love then, but doctrine
should never be confused with faith or replace its practice,
the thrust of the stage asking us to take off

the mask the public gives to saints, the lie this
kind of living necessitates, we who died in a land
of disbelief relive again and again, without cease, menacing themes
of death and concealment threading their ash across the scorching

east of our faces’ turned cheeks, we are the reviled
others those denying us the purity of this desire sequester
in exile, deserts stitching over the opening of wounds, concealing
a path back to Eden we cannot retrace, scatter salt

over their graves, forget our names, we are no more,
never were, remember not the place where silence is the
password for its gate, your body is the temple where
myth is made flesh, where nature demands to be reverenced,

               when you hear this, manifest—a father from whom I

inherited a war, without knowing he did so, imparted to
me its force, now I am sure, poetry is the
geometry of language, delegating royal power permits a king to
be in many places at once, naming a thing creates

it, saying something animates it, as if from nothing, to
chaotic fulfillment, changes concepts to shapes to objects, open your
mouth and you form the world, open the tombs of
kings and take their bones, carry home royal spoils to

reward lost soldiers whose stolen spirits we mourn, whose souls
we stir when we till the earth to which battle
has returned them, remember and you turn the corner from
a statistic to Lazarus in a more modern form, so

do not go down without a fight, do not grasp
at the skirts of your hometown, she is a promise
built on water, faithful as a cloud when the sun
comes around, will into being your world, script your own

exit line, define your own existence, you make your Self
a stranger when you wander realms which are not ours,
stronger than fire when you conquer the danger of a
fate unknown, dirt together more hazardous than death when reborn.

1“[Sura] 35. The Creator (Fatir)”, [Verse] 11, in The Qur’an: A new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 2005; page 277.
2“Genesis”, [Chapter] 2, [Verse] 18, in “The Hebrew Bible: The Hebrew Scriptures commonly called the Old Testament: New Revised Standard Version” of The New Oxford Annotated Apocrypha: Augmented Third Edition: Michael D. Coogan, Editor: Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, Pheme Perkins, Associate Editors: New Revised Standard Version, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 2007; page 14.