“While Reading the News About Orlando, I Hear the Call to Prayer” by Leila Chatti

Leila Chatti


Not metaphor, but outside
the window, the muezzin
calling from town, his voice faint
as a phantom arrived in the room.
How many times have I felt
shame at those words—Allahu
akbar—felt it twist
like a knife inside me?
Once, lonely, I listened
for hours to recordings
of the adhan through
Macbook speakers,
wept and knew myself
in the presence of God.
My God, during this all holy
month, when I am so far
everything back home
seems like a dream, its violence
only a wakeable sleep—
where are you to refuse those
who call out to you, who undo
what you’ve made in your name?
I am not asleep and they are
not waking. Again there is blood
on the floor in your name
and there is no god
but you, so answer.

Poets Respond
June 19, 2016

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Leila Chatti: “I am currently in my second home, Tunisia, where I return each summer to visit my family. It is Ramadan and I was preparing for the evening meal (iftar), during which one breaks their fast, when I first read the news about Orlando. And as I was reading, the adhan—the call to prayer–came drifting in from town. I was so startled by the juxtaposition I had to sit for a long time. I thought of the line by Naomi Shihab Nye: ‘What does a true Arab do now?’ And what does a true Muslim do, too? I wrote this poem.” (website)

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