Door open, old sleigh bell jingle, same floor board creek,
and a dust lift, dense cloud here in this place I so love.
Been 20 years of this country in my pockets and beating
on my back and dragging my childhood frame through
gravel so what else could be such relief but this, my jihad,
my salient arrival, pilgrimage primary. Been to this place
in every city- same dust come up, same sweaty men
behind the counter. Maybe this is where my family’s
men learned to be brutish towers, the scent of a man
trickling through the forest of their fertile chests. We
buy the lamb’s legs, the cubed chicken, the ground beef.
Cut just for the pits of our loud and savage brown mouths,
clicking open during prayer, clicking shut after tea. Every
visit to the sacred corner of the plaza means I see some kin
or human or man who stands with me in comfortable prostration
every Friday. Every flavor of Muslim family brown come
through here and every flavor served for brown here, too.
Got all these pickled veggies and fruits, got a fresh blood
dripping to the tile and mat- a lamb splitting itself on a
steel counter. Halal, a prayer leaving no doubt. And the butcher says,
with blood on his chin, whole family’s sweat on his brow
Take home this candy for the little one,
tell him I miss his laugh. Oh, Masha’Allah,
The way that one laughs.
All his teeth out now, thin film of water a monsoon bursting from his
eyes. No other cleric memorized my family’s palms, no other
mystic in this town holding my kin as close as I am but the butcher. He
is my family, your family, the family of the whole congregation.
Butcher know where I’ve been, butcher know where I’m going.
Butcher has cut me open and filled my whole chest up
enough times to know what kind of heart lives in this carcass.
Butcher know to pickle the tomatoes, know to shut off the stove,
knows steam is nothing but a quick distraction from joy.
Butcher knows steam looks too much like smoke
and isn’t smoke just a village burning? Isn’t a village burning
just a field of ash? Isn’t a field of ash where we came from?
And the way the whites of our eyes on the backdrop of a
charred and colonized nation look here? Maybe too
dead to our mothers, maybe too alive to our neighbors. Butcher
knows when he splits the sustenance with his weaponry,
drops the meat-coated bones in bags, all covered in blood-gut
glory, they’re not our bones, they’re not our bodies.
This village stay decolonized, these trees still stand, these names,
they stay written, spoken, stay off the tombstone,
stay out of the mother’s wailing mouth. And as long as there
is no smoke, he still has his family left to feed- blood
of the entire ummah safe in his palms, a congregation infinite.
And he wipes clean his chin, and he pulls the blade back
bounty above his head, and he decides to keep us alive,
with the sacred blessing of little means and a big people.
INAM KANG is a Pakistani-born Muslim poet, student, and curator currently living in Cleveland, OH. He is an MS candidate in Medical Physiology at Case Western Reserve University. He is also a co-curator and founder of the POC-centered reading and dialogue series FRUIT in Ann Arbor, MI. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Winter Tangerine, Tinderbox and other journals and anthologies. His parents are great. He is probably crying in rush hour traffic.