Ode to the Breathalyzer In My Car Followed By a Mother’s Prayer by Inam Kang

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

A reminder of where I’ve been as I go where I must-
a guilty heft in the pursing of my lips, watch you
devour and devour my hum, my breath

& now I see, and now I hear, and now my teeth--
they rattle in my mouth and I feel them, I feel them.

Bring shame to my feet say here, look at this what
you’ve made, what you’ve allowed yourself to
& then I remember a crowded row
of all types of me, I remember men passing and passing.

I remember my body being feast and paralysis, decadence
and shamble, all for the taking- how I stumbled careless
through years and people and a whole world’s grit to be seen.

There is a single moment, though, that I am tethered to.
Every daylight in which I leave my parents’ driveway —
there is my mother crying, my father’s face looking only
to the dirt, and me breathing and breathing.

In knowing you and your tests, I am honest, if for no good
reason but to run away. For you, I am a door open, a body
closed, a prayer whispered into breath in the cold. For you,
I am learning of mercy for the first time. I am learning.

For you, there is only a single direction, and that must be
a place divine and forgiving-
             forward, forward; I know my name,
             sanctuary, blessing, a fallable thing.

He was always a good boy, Alhamdulillah,
             cocked back his neck and let stream flow out of
him, asked for forgiveness.
                        Always, he did that.

He used to come home from football practice and I would
hear him crying, begging Allah for mercy, mafi. And I think
he received it after all. I don’t mean he received mercy for
all that gunah & drink & boy in his bed.

I mean he seems free now, without a bottle or an animal’s
extra arm on his lips. but I think he always misunderstood
             and he still does.

Nobody ever tries to go to jannah for themselves, for their
single soul to float in all the selfish language of worship
holding their fickle good.

Nobody ever pulled the best pieces of their spirit out of
themselves without help from their universe, their dunya,
their mothers.

Nobody ever gets to jannah getting there for themselves,
            I mean.

They go to again be with their families- to be with them
away from death. I always prayed for his mercy, prayed
for him to think about mine. I think he does, but he tells
me he’ll always be an alcoholic, sharabi mess.

So that’s what I put into this world,
            what I made.

Now, I pray for my own mercy, too. Mashallah I raised a
good thing —
             a selfish, powerful boy.

Photo of Inam Kang

Photo of Inam Kang

Inam Kang is a Pakistani-born Muslim poet, student, curator and researcher currently living in Cleveland, OH as an MS candidate in Medical Physiology at Case Western Reserve University. He is also a former Ann Arbor Poetry & Slam finalist. Currently, he is a co-curator for the POC-centered reading and dialogue series FRUIT in Ann Arbor, MI. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Freezeray Poetry and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. His parents are great. His appetite persists.