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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, January 3, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I initially wanted to write a poem about the Sufi mystic Rabia Al-Adawiyya and was researching her life. A while later, after a period of silence and listening, the images in this poem somehow came together. Though this poem is not about Rabia, it explores faith and prayer beyond traditional religious practices and definitions. It also explores how love, loss, sadness, and gratitude can exist simultaneously. You know how you’re sometimes overcome with the urge to weep at the hurt, beauty, and impermanence of this world?”
Zeina Hashem Beck

There, There, Grieving

             Where are you from?
                     There.

             Where are you headed?
                     There.

             What are you doing?
                     Grieving. 
                           —Rabia Al-Adawiyya



Little brother, we are all grieving 
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.

Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light-years away
are under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed the staircases saying, There, there.

Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.

Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you've been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day, 
I open the door. I do it by looking 
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bare.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.

Little brother, we are all humming. 
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers, 
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift 
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah. 

Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon, 
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.

Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—

             the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
             the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
             the gears that turn, & the remembering.

Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck

Zeina Hashem Beck is the author of Louder than Hearts (Bauhan Publishing, 2017), which won the 2016 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize. She is Lebanese and currently lives in Dubai.