How Prayer Works | Kaveh Akbar | Granta

How Prayer Works

Kaveh Akbar

Tucked away in our tiny bedroom so near
each other the edge of my prayer rug
covered the edge of his, my brother and I
prayed. We were 18 and 11 maybe, or 19
and 12. He was back from college where
he built his own computer and girls kissed
him on the mouth. I was barely anything,
just wanted to be left alone to read and watch
The Simpsons.

We prayed together as we had done
thousands of times, rushing ablutions
over the sink, laying our janamazes out
toward the window facing the elm which
one summer held an actual crow’s nest
full of baby crows: fuzzy, black-beaked
fruit, they were miracles we did not think
to treasure.

My brother and I hurried through sloppy
postures of praise, quiet as the light
pooling around us. The room was so
small our twin bed took up nearly all of
it, and as my brother, tall and endless,
moved to kneel, his foot caught the coiled
brass doorstop, which issued forth a loud
brooong. The noise crashed around the
room like a long, wet bullet shredding
through porcelain.

My brother bit back a smirk and I tried to
stifle a snort but solemnity ignored our
pleas – we erupted, laughter quaking out
our faces into our bodies and through the
floor. We were hopeless, laughing at our
laughing, our glee an infinite rope fraying
off in every direction.

It’s not that we forgot God or the martyrs
or the Prophet’s holy word – quite the
opposite, in fact; we were boys built to
love what was right in front of our faces:
my brother and I draped across each
other, laughing tears into our prayer rugs.

 

Image courtesy Fons Heijnsbroek

Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar’s poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, the New York Times, Best American Poetry and elsewhere. He is the author of two books of poetry – Pilgrim Bell and Calling a Wolf a Wolf – and the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine. Born in Tehran, Iran, Akbar teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programmes at Randolph and Warren Wilson colleges. Currently, he serves as Poetry Editor for the Nation.

Photograph © Paige Lewis

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