Fragments of Bone


Let me begin again, I say, as the bar blurs

invisible, its volume reduced to the merest

suggestion of others and it’s just us spotlit

in the black womb-like silence of theatre

and your question themes the play; let me

begin again: I went to church last Sunday.


The pastor preached: put not your faith in

man who only is good as his next breath;

align your faith with he who gives breath.

Here I stutter, my answer splintering like

fragments of bone against the mud soil

of memory. Moments before, I recalled


the call to prayer: In the Name of Allah

Most Gracious, Most Merciful – the slow

unfurling Imam’s son’s voice as dusk

touched the courtyard, the dust settling,

the sun solemnly bowed on the horizon –

thin as a prayer mat – and the gathered

performing ablutions: Bismillah, they say,

washing hands, mouths, nostrils, faces,

arms, head, ears, feet, kneeling to pray

Allah Is Great, God Is Great, they say.


You counter with airplanes, fireballs,

towers falling; stop your rant with

the first fireman to die, his skull caved

by a jumper from the 51st floor fleeing

flames. In the name of Allah, Gracious,

Great, Merciful this was done, you say.


I mention Amazing Grace, how sweet

the choir leader swayed in white robes,

eyes closed, humming southern baptist

hymn hypnotic, sailing congregations

to the oceanic depth whence his tears:

wide and sure as waves ride back and

forth that everything would be all right.


You rejected faith again, describing Jos,

Nigeria, the girl watching flat amongst

tall grass: the squad of Christian men

who hold her mother down as another

swings down with a machete, down as

sunlight skates the blade’s edge, down,

the last swing, the fragments of bone

and there are screams no more.


There’s blood in the drama of Men and

Gods, you say: rivers of it flow through

our wounded earth, gush from scripts

in houses of worship and act after act

aren’t all stained? except the audience?

the secular astray? You gesture toward

those seated in darkness who gawk as we

squabble on stage; aren’t they the ones

the light beyond will touch unbloodied?

who will die hands clean?


… Let me begin again, I say, I went to

church/the pastor preached/faith/man

/breath/… I stutter, the bar blurs back

to life, words falls against your ears.