god’s angeleno girlhood and other rites of passage

by Latifa Sekarini

 

    i was three when i first learned al-fil. my mother squatting in the other room, shelling my  sister’s squeaky sandals so they won’t wake the neighbors. americans love anything from the  asian market except for asians. i was born a year after 9/11 so i knew i belonged in the hell of an  american heart. the world is three years old to a three-year-old. my blunt persistence spilling over  my father’s voice as i tell him he cannot spoil the last few passages of a chapter that has been  around for thousands of years. but that’s NOT where the surah ends一BUT THEY HAVEN’T  TAUGHT US THIS PART YET so we have to stop here until i learn the next part. the world waits  for no one but Your world will wait for me. the glow of chunky peanut butter commercials  patching up our cratered ceiling, the shadows of swallows hovering over my recitation. voice  quavering as girl meets God.  i was taught repetition does not water the value of our beloved. mouths packed with prayer, heart  virginal to loss but heavy with grief, fire cracking knuckles that falter when my quran teacher  asks if i know why the fifth and sixth verse is repeated in al-inshirah. i tell her i don’t. she reads  it twice: surely with hardship comes ease. she tells me You want us to remember, because we are  the ones who need it the most. it is the one verse i recall as i’m hiding in the hollows of the  pulpit, begging for You to give me the gentleness promised through my name when my mother  shouts DO YOU WANT TO GO TO HELL? IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? You said, “surely with  hardship comes ease.” out of all Your promises i hope this one You keep.

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