Facing Mecca $20

As Muslims who pray the five obligatory prayers each day of our lives, when able we orient ourselves toward Mecca, located in what is now Saudi Arabia, from wherever we happen to find ourselves, farflung in some island fastness, or out in desert dunes, or in a New York hotel room. There are boat people who tie up and face Mecca right in their boats, saintly Moroccan merchants who fling their carpets down just behind the counter where they sell embroidery thread to very particular customers (I am a witness). We can’t get too “far out” when we stop to face Mecca five times and more a day, or in the solitude of our nights, knowing the plumb line goes straight through to the next world, and its rising to the holy heights.

Poem Selection from Facing Mecca

Beginning the Prayer

I stand facing Mecca
the house all around me
parallel with everything
hands up to my ears
the Prayer begins

Hands across chest
time-space capsule surrounds me
no god but Allah
all Other forgotten

Here’s eternity’s signature
signed through space
with severe strokes

Parallel lines on the prayer mat
past actions cast behind me
trees in linear groves
stand straight in the Prayer in
this world
bend from the waist
into the Next

There are parallel lines
to the limits
past the
edge of the
earth are darknesses
the body stands straight then
what does it bow to but

Absence that is a
we can’t see with our bare
eyes but know
eyes don’t see Allah Presence physically
but are themselves
proof by
pure seeingHis Absence Alive in the air
we prostrate in parallel lines
we stand straight with
angels in the prayer line
rows of Mediterranean Cypresses
tall silhouettes against white sky
favorites of foggy graveyards

We stand with
arms at our sides
against the
beating chests of our
clasping left wrist with right hand
eyes half-slitted
not staring
Gaze made to
fall on the
last actions done
cast behind me

Dead while alive
standing still
by praying

From the
Next world we
rise into

This one

5/16/89 (from Facing Mecca)

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