House of Prayer
I walk into the beads of thirty-three alhamdulillahs,
I walk into my childhood mouth, repeat alhamdulillah.
Four decades ago, father too walked into this prayer,
his body nested in the oblong Boeing, his alhamdulillah
humming deep until it matched the scale of the engine.
It was during that first crossing from one alhamdulillah
to another home, that my father crushed open the chasm
he has since passed down to every poem I write: [ ]
the hollow, the forgotten Qur’an lodged deep in the night
of an unopened drawer. My quest to belong. Alhamdulillah,
forgive me, forgive me. I praise once again, I symmetry
like the wings of a migrating bird, I repeat alhamdulillah
and rinse and repeat and rinse and repeat, like the rokrok
of an egret. I hold this tasbih to count my alhamdulillahs
thirty-three times, ninety-nine times: the key is to walk
again and again into the holy, repeating alhamdulillah,
alhamdulillah, alhamdullilah, until the skyward calm. Father,
what did you hope for when you uttered alhamdulillah,
when you rinsed over the Atlantic in that giant bird?
When the egg cracked open and the yolk of alhamdullilah
spilled onto a new coast? Was it travelling homeward
or away from homeland? I have learned that alhamdulillah
does not resemble a border, but it is a house of its own.
Alhamdulillah glints beyond language: praise be to God.
My western tongue holds the syllables, unhooks the praise
in my own last name: h-m-d. Always, I recite alhamdulillah.