At Fajr by Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


When I wake up at five again, still four hours before work,
there is nothing to do but cradle mourning against my chest,
trying to calm it back into sleep, but I can’t hush the wail  
of a thing with no mouth. For months now, my prescription
heckled any hope for rest, so I move out of the bed
and into more of the dark that wraps the living room,
find the cord through the guide of habit and plug it into my phone,
crawl to the closet, rummage through crumpled fabric,
blouses that slipped off their hangers, until I feel the edge
of velvet fringes, pull the janamaz and drag it beside
the coffee table and think let this here be qibleh.
I stand after so many years to recite the short prayer at fajr
in the utter quiet, sunless, no sound or sight, and maybe
for no reason other than a Lauryn Hill tune streaming from memory,
her insistence don’t forget about the dean, the sirat-al mostaqeem,
that at the end of the last sajdeh, I lift my forehead to find
the faint light of my phone charger cast onto the dining room chairs,
each leg a steel shadow with one spot illuminated––together,
the scene a set of twenty stars, like a constellation had knelt
from its aerial home to eye level. And by eye level, I mean my level,
I mean my body on the velvet ground, tilted to one side,
watching Sagittarius in my home, until dawn dissolves the miracle.


 Photo of Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

Photo of Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad’s poetry has appeared in the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, The Missing Slate, Painted Bride Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Silk Road Review. She is the poetry editor for Noble / Gas Qtrly, and a Best of the Net, Pushchart Prize, and Best New Poets nominee. She currently lives in New York where she practices matrimonial law.