my friend, the brilliant pakistani writer uzma aslam khan, shared this beautiful poem with me today.
“Learning to Pray” by Kaveh Akbar
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.