Thieves of Light
Don Ramón Gets Pulled Over on my Way to Jumu’ah
Two generations later, thieves of light pace
in deadened toll, hollering
Pass the government seed,
umi preaches el camino recto,
I rest against the transit’s spine, camión coughs.
Corriendo tarde, thinking how
my bootleg’d din
began as the back of a paper bag
of her day job, where she drew
green marked stick-figures of us.
My heart’s an open-throated bakery
An-Nikah rises my chest, burst to the now.
To pop the question, I
had a Dominican brother
who works part-time at El Merengue
taper me up for today.
Purple and white button down,
mi papá’s old slacks,
kufi perched atop my head.
Am I ready?
O servants of Allah,
make my intention.
fastened to the back
of a Rolex. Cradle fajr to
a slave-shift clockwork, where the hostile serves and
freedom’s the watchword.
It’s noon at Newark,
I step off Roseville and 4th Ave. Watch the city stretch from the bottom bus-step.
An inner city qibbla prays to the corner liquor store.
Vices rank-and-file the block
police line up.
The pollo hervido of white masters on the beat,
purging for signs
of last night’s idol worship.
A slender dutchmaster peers outside a
primo’s half-fajada shirt. Alguien le grita,
ya güey. Oyes,
no seas pendejo, ya tienes two strikes”
broken taillights and
At the back of his
rusted blue Honda,
Don Osito’s three weeks overdue for build-a-bear surgery, stickers from doctor
visits screen the window.
Neon orange soccer shoes tied to gutted seats.
the canine squad
licks their fangs,
suspecting lunch came early.
Crossing 18th St to Get to Masjid As’habul Yameen
Before I met her,
my bootleg dīn walked with a stumble.
Vacant jaw lotted wit a wheel lock,
Arabic’s on backdoor parole,
running suicides ‘cross the two stoplight borough.
East Orange-Newark. All it knows
is the concrete horizon.
Tongue’s a hunchback addict, jorobado Spanish
clung onto dime-bags of
rituals and proverbs
rotations to rakats. I’s cleaned up my act,
shaking off el crudo, the
I’m further downtown
at slash-faced sidewalks, where
the sun bleeds through shards of glass,
people is half-finished jigaw’s.
Al-Fatihah crackles outside a
God’s nostril breathes
through its manhole cover. Its thick bars now
pouring into their eyes.
Marrowed temples shaking off the jinn.
Sirata al-ladhina. Sirata. Sira. Cierro mis ojos.
She adjusts the folds
of her abaya, gold trimmings embroidered
at the hijab.
Two hours prior, she stood
at the silhouette of my shadada.
We celebrate by
staining the sleeves
over a half-finished ketchup cup at Five Guys. Asks me,
“So what are we?”
Skeleton cutlass supreme’s
pull me out the dream.
My bootleg’d din’s
Brick City’s pillars, as thieves of light bump they heads
to dark-tinted throwbacks.
Thumma kallā sawfa ta`lamūna
Peddlers yawn off
their untagged assets.
Pawing the dhikr beads, one of ‘em
opens his toothless bizarre, and gawks
“‘Fat cats and hood rats are kin’
separated at the shit
I swerve past the dust-cropped tarps,
and slip off my airforce chanclas.
— Left foot, “I did it for her?”
Right foot, “I’ve studied Islam since high school.”—
before the storefront masjid. Maxim turret rolls
out the umma’s greeting in rapid-fire
salaams Bid my peace to the urban sahaba, as they
shake their heads to the blue-slippered sister
jotting down this week’s numbers.
Baby let’s take inventory:
3 hours per nights spent over the phone, falling asleep to your confession.
Two months talking.
4 visits to the mosque.
$68 spent on Uber Select (‘cuz I didn’t know the difference).
A 25 cent gumball machine that popped in the middle of our walk around Southpoint mall.
6 jetblack brochures on the faith.
One trip to Harris Teeter donde me miraste, asked
My name not as a question, but to see how it tasted on your lips.
‘Powerball’s a poor man’s zakat,’ Miguel chuckles.
Him and Darius
chop lips on ol girl’s dress,
Bleeding paint off the jezebel-saint.
Darius tilts his head in jagged tashuhud.
Issues a fatwa off the dome
“Half-naked females ain’t sunnah,”
paying no mind, I grab the Noble version, ‘fore he axe me
in cumulus’d cataracts
“Habibi, can you believe sister Aisha?”
Minbar hangs at my sigh, “I know.”
“Astaghfirullah” rolls off the sandpaper’d walls,
“Check your pockets brother,” they tell me.
“Give her sister Karen’s number.”
He clasps his cane
with willow-barked fingers.
“Fuck her attire,
my people tired.”
“We ain’t even got frozen juice cans
and y’all trippin’ bout
Ol’ girl could be wearing wedges,
fine-strap her back, but
I’d come at her edgewise.
should be a food drive
off the spines
Of WIC checks. “
Matter fact y’all shu-”“
Salat after Transgressing an Elder
A grunt faintly trims the air.
“Keep your lines straight,”
Imam Rashid, formerly the
West Side tenant, grita. His voice
off the 7th floor of Jannah. used to
Chase Shaytan to the ledge of his veins.
Siphoned blood from its valves,
skipping service and heartbeats. Until he
stacked up 2-foot minarets
off the downtown paternity clinic. Ahora subhan’Allah,
Paycheck-less men seated cross-legged
in front of a rehal,
Pulsating with the saged rhythms
of our beloved’s text.
As I met her,
my bootleg’d dīn flossed Friday’s best
standing shoulder to shoulder with white t’s.
Shoe rack gagged with the finest flea-marketed tims
n’ space jam’d high tops.
Across the street, Otis’ run-down gas station
sells Warrior jerseys and barbeque ribs.
Owner’s a believer,
brothers is broke these days.
Outside the prayer mat’d jumu’ah,
child of Ibrahim raps on the register. the courtroom-cashier,
asked for his knots up front in quarters. Obsidian grimace
only thing soft ‘bout him
his father’s puffy jacket.
Lil’ man’s a juvenile gambler,
slot-machining his dreams
on palm-sized basketball courts.
Scarlet hair betrays his Irish side.
My dīn’s an infant, bootlegged off a
a hunch and a hitch.
“So what’s it goin’ be man?”
Her brother’s voice sings in my ribcage,
heating the monarcas inside.
“You goin’ do this right?”
—Poised pa’la respuesta,
I think back
to outside that crummy café. Where
playing with the inside of my blue flannel, she
caught my heart henna-handed. With unspoken music, she
plucks each thread from her abaya,
and somewhere between a joke and jab, says,
“To be honest,
I ain’t really seen Mexicans like that.”—
7 months later.
I’m here now.
Inside this Salafi mosque. Rashid offers me a fountain pen.
My bride’s dressed like la virgen guadalupe, green shawl haloing her body.
I throw a small joke as my dowry,
“You the lightest person in your fam yo”
Black Islam leaves Malcolm’s memoir,
a sea coursing through the 30-some faces studying me.
A paloma perching on the rest of my life.
ushers in the small red room,
—He musters his overseas Spanish 201, “Trátala bien.”
Her father’s hard-earned blessing
seated next to him—
to inside, a satin red room
and next to her.
Playing with the inside of my sherwani,
she leads me,
to sign the kitab.
The sisters giggle, at the convert-turned-man.
My fingers thumble, in the maze of Arabic, to find my name on the dotted line.
My bootleg’d din
along the way, forgot the fine print. To leave America. Apply for Emerati citizenship.
Oil money, teach English to diplomats’ children, my Afro-Latin kid loses her Spanish.
Amá. Apá. Mexico. Michoacán. Allah what did you do with Dios? ¿Dónde lo pusiste? In EE.UU? In U.A.E.?
My bootleg’d din,
threatens to steal me too.
Swallow me whole.
I softly press my hands against hers,
Do this. Err’things too mixed up.
Orar a dos dioses.”
Let the Spanish fill the air to ease me
in breaking this House.”
Look at her one last time,
her freckles are the stars in Mt. Hira.
“I can’t worship two Gods.”