I am thinking of Damascus as an argument
over street parking ensues, muted
by the glass doors of the town café.
In my head the angry men are telling me
that this country allows me to look
elsewhere. And so I look up at the wires
on the poles and their flat parabolas,
at the leaves behind them on stems
on branches of trees whose names
are up to me. The building behind
the acacia shields me from the mild sun
of 3 p.m. Is this the luxury of older age?
Forgetting this city’s name?
Why does that sound so much like serenity?
And why is Manila so beautiful
in the places the sun reaches
only barely? I am thinking of Damascus
and the anatomy of a blast
because the smoke, the rubble, the dark
are all aftermath. A blast is pure light
and sound, heard as nothing
but noise, and seen as light
not different from God’s. Did we forget
that he has never been a granter of wishes?
That the most bearded of philosophers
spoke always of the bolt of lightning
in his closed fist? The truth is I know nothing
of terror. I wish to know nothing of it.
What I do know is I do not weep
when I am afraid. I forget
the names of flowers, of books, of the dead.
I forget whose voice I heard
after awakening for the first time,
and the names of everyone
I have ever loved. I forget that I kneel
each night, but do not call it prayer.
All I recite are the names of cities
in a whisper to myself: Damascus
and Paris. Sinai and Mogadishu.
Marawi and Peshawar and each place
that makes it impossible to forget
where you are. The prayer is not for skylines.
The prayer is not for streets and their silence.
The prayer is only for each quiet voice
to find its rightful ear.