03: The Face of the Sky

“In Heaven, everyone will be thirty-two years old,” my nine-year-old niece says, skipping towards where I am washing dishes. She has just finished her daily Quran class. I ask her if this is something her sheikh taught her. “No,” she says, “I just looked it up.”

She is curious these days. She asks me things like why only men lead prayer or if the only path to empathy is suffering. She is patient when I tell her I have no answers and that I think she is smarter than me. Sometimes I have trouble gauging what she is thinking. She’s the eldest of three—(I know)—and she has already learned an expression learned an expression where she shows me what I expect instead of what she feels. Is she pleased? Is she disappointed?

I dry off the dishes and think about a poem I tried to write about God being thirty-two and having a beard. I wonder what she would think of my poetry, if she chose to read it. Lately, she loves telling people I wrote a book. She loves doing an impression of me where I am sad about ice cream and incorrectly overusing the word audacity. I welcome it. I love when she is audacious. 

Now I will always be older than Jesus.

And the secrets I’m saving will also continue

like nights we were so much ourselves

they’re forgotten, they occur twice.

Not unlike the day I keep trying to find

when I invite death for a walk

on which there’s no obvious season,

and even the sky won’t house

the short distance between us

as we follow each other and talk

of everything we have in common.

The cold morning without morning.

Alex Dimitrov, “Zenith”

“Can you really lose up to 60% of your blood and still survive?” I ask. We are watching a movie about a shark attack and Christianity. No one is thirty-two in this movie, except maybe Carrie Underwood.

“Yeah,” my doctor sister says from the other side of the couch. “Don’t you know the story of my first surgery?”

I don’t but apparently everyone does. My sister recounts how she held together the aorta of a man for 14 hours with her bare hands because the surgeon nicked him by accident. “It happens all the time,” she says. “It went up like a fountain.”

She was supposed to be home by 10 pm from her 18-hour shift. Around 1 am, her husband called the hospital, asking if she was okay. The main surgeon, feeling pity on her, told her she could go home and return at 6 am—a reward of three hours of sleep instead of two.

surely I will die, so much of me

outside of me and still more

leaving, an exodus, the blood

Leila Chatti, “Deluge”

A few days ago was the wolf moon. The first full moon of the year. I commemorated it by listening to Shania Twain and this rendition of Maula ya Salli and thinking maybe this was the year I could fall in love. The wolf moon was probably like, Yeah right. Go back to sleep.

“Has everyone been in love?” James Baldwin asks. “Not on the basis of the evidence. If they have, they’ve forgotten it. If everyone had been in love, they’d treat their children differently. They’d treat each other differently.”

I think people treat love a lot like they treat the moon. They long for it restlessly. They pile up their expectations and assumptions. They think it’s about beauty, not distance. Feeling, not faith.

Earlier in the video, James says, “It was in a sense all for you. You know. I mean, I know that I love you but you haven’t necessarily got to know that. To know. I suppose I never thought that I would live to hear you say that you love me. That sounds very corny.” He laughs. “But you know what I mean.”

I do. How many of us have waited our whole lives on either side of that moment? How long have we held closed our shaking mouths, or turned away from someone just about to speak?

The wolf moon is named so because it is the moon the wolves howl at most clearly together. Like the harvest or strawberry moon, the poetry in me says that the moon must become wolf-like in return. It glowers at the earth. It growls with light. It is afraid of nothing. It hangs, hungry, like a tooth nailed to the face of the sky.

I climb the mountain.

Up steps the moon has already taken.

Of absence. Of things broken.

To see if the moon is a mouth.

To see if I am what it wants.

LINda gregg, “Of Absence”

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