Little Mosque Poems.
Article Type: Poem
Author: Kahf, Mohja
Pub Date: 12/01/2010
Publication: Name: Journal of Pan African Studies Publisher: Journal of Pan African Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Journal of Pan African Studies ISSN: 0888-6601
Issue: Date: Dec, 2010 Source Volume: 4 Source Issue: 2
Accession Number: 306754429
Full Text: Parts of this poem has been published in Azizah Magazine.

--Mohja Kahf

Fayetteville, AK
Little Mosque Poems

   In my little mosque
   there is no room for me
   to pray. I am
   turned away faithfully
   times a day

   My little mosque:
   so meager
   in resources, yet
   so eager
   to turn away
   a woman
   or a stranger

   My little mosque
   is penniless, behind on rent
   Yet it is rich in anger
   every Friday, coins of hate
   are generously spent

   My little mosque is poor yet
   every week we are asked to give
   to buy another curtain
   to partition off the women,
   or to pave another parking space

   I go to the Mosque of the Righteous
   I have been going there all my life
   I have been the Cheerleader of the Righteous Team
   I have mocked the visiting teams cruelly
   I am the worst of those I complain about:
   I am a former Miss Mosque Banality

   I would like to build
   a little mosque
   without a dome
   or minaret
   I'd hang a sign
   over the door:
   Bad Muslims
   welcome here
   Come in, listen
   to some music,
   the soul's longing,
   have a cigarette

   I went to the mosque
   when no one was there
   and startled two angels
   coming out of a broom closet
   "Are they gone now?" one said
   They looked relieved

   My great big mosque
   has a chandelier
   big as a Christmas tree
   and a jealously guarded
   lock and key
   I wonder why
   everyone in it
   looks just like me

   My little mosque
   has a bouncer at the door
   You have to look pious
   to get in

   My little mosque
   has a big sense of humor

   I went to the mosque
   when no one was there
   The prayer space was soft and serene
   I heard a sound like lonely singing
   or quiet sobbing. I heard a leafy rustling
   I looked around
   A little Quran
   on a low shelf
   was reciting itself

   My little mosque has a Persian carpet
   depicting trees of paradise
   in the men's section, which you enter
   through a lovely classical arch
   The women's section features
   well, nothing

   Piety dictates that men enter
   my little mosque through magnificent columns
   Piety dictates
   that women enter
   my little mosque
   through the back alley,
   just past the crack junkie here
   and over these fallen garbage cans

   My little mosque used to be democratic
   with a rotating imam
   we chose from among us every month
   Now my little mosque has an appointed imam
   trained abroad
   No one can dispute his superior knowledge

   We used to use our minds
   to understand Quran
   My little mosque discourages
   that sort of thing these days
   We have official salaried translators
   for God

   I used to carry around a little mosque
   in the chambers of my heart
   but it is closed indefinitely pending
   extensive structural repairs

   I miss having a mosque,
   driving by and seeing cars lining the streets,
   people double-parking, desperate
   to catch the prayer in time
   I miss noticing, as they dodge across traffic
   toward the mosque entrance between
   buses and trucks,
   their long chemises fluttering,
   that trail of gorgeous fabrics Muslims leave,
   gossamer, the colors of hot lava, fantastic shades
   from the glorious places of the earth
   I miss the stiff, uncomfortable men
   looking anywhere but at me when they meet me,
   and the double-faced women
   full of judgment, and their beautiful
   children shining
   with my children. I do

   I don't dream of a perfect mosque
   I just want roomfuls of people to kiss every week
   with the kisses of Prayer and Serenity,
   and a fat, multi-trunked tree
   collecting us loosely for a minute under
   its alive and quivering canopy

   Once, God applied
   for a janitor position at our mosque,
   but the board turned him down
   because he wasn't a practicing

   Once a woman entered
   my little mosque
   with a broken arm,
   a broken heart,
   and a very short skirt
   Everyone rushed over to her
   to make sure
   she was going to cover her legs

   Marshmallows are banned
   from my little mosque
   because they might
   contain gelatin derived from pork enzymes
   but banality is not banned,
   and yet verily,
   banality is worse than marshmallows

   Music is banned
   at my little mosque
   because it is played on
   the devil's stringed instruments,
   although a little music
   softens the soul
   and lo, a hardened soul
   is the devil's taut drumskin

   Once an ignorant Bedouin
   got up and started to pee against a wall
   in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina
   The pious protective Companions leapt
   to beat him
   The Prophet bade them stop
   A man is entitled to finish a piss
   even if he is an uncouth idiot,
   and there are things
   more important in a mosque than ritual purity

   My little mosque thinks
   the story I just narrated
   cannot possibly be true
   and a poet like me cannot possibly
   have studied Sahih al-Bukhari

   My little mosque
   thinks a poem like this must be
   written by the Devil
   in cahoots with the Zionists,
   NATO, and the current U.S. administration,
   as part of the Worldwide Orientalist Plot
   to Discredit Islam

   Don't they know
   at my little mosque
   that this is a poem
   written in the mirror
   by a lover?

   My little mosque
   is fearful to protect itself
   from the bricks of bigots
   through its window
   Doesn't my little mosque know
   the way to protect its windows
   is to open its doors?

   I know the bricks of bigots
   are real
   I wish I could protect my little mosque
   with my body as a shield

   I love my dysfunctional little mosque
   even though I can't stand it

   My little mosque loves Arab men
   with pure accents and beards
   Everyone else is welcome
   as long as
   they understand that Real Islam
   has to come from an Arab man

   My little mosque loves Indian
   and Pakistani men with Maududi in their pockets
   Everyone else is welcome because as we all know
   there is no discrimination in Islam

   My little mosque loves women
   who know that Islam liberated them
   fourteen hundred years ago and so
   they should live like seventh-century Arabian women
   or at least dress
   like pre-industrial pre-colonial women
   men can adjust with the times

   My little mosque loves converts
   especially white men and women
   who give "Why I embraced Islam" lectures
   to be trotted out as trophies
   by the Muslim pom-pom squad
   of Religious One-up-man-ship

   My little mosque faints at the sight
   of pale Bosnian women suffering
   across the sea
   Black women suffering
   across the street
   do not move
   my little mosque much

   I would like to find a little mosque
   where my Christian grandmother
   and my Jewish great-uncle the rebbe
   and my Buddhist cousin
   and my Hindu neighbor
   would be as welcome
   as my staunchly Muslim mom and dad

   My little mosque has young men and women
   who have nice cars, nice homes, expensive educations,
   and think they are the righteous rageful
   Victims of the World Persecution

   My little mosque offers courses on
   the Basics of Islamic Cognitive Dissonance
   "There is no racism in Islam" means
   we won't talk about it
   "Islam is unity" means
   There's so much to learn
   Class is free and meets every week

   I don't dream of a perfect mosque, only
   a few square inches of ground
   that will welcome my forehead,
   no questions asked

   My little mosque is as decrepit
   as my little heart. Its narrowness
   is the narrowness in me. Its windows
   are boarded up like the part of me that prays

   I went to the mosque
   when no one was there
   No One was sweeping up
   She said: This place is just a place
   Light is everywhere. Go, live in it
   The Mosque is under your feet,
   wherever you walk each day
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