Though there was the ritual, I remained
a stranger to the formalities of church.
Long Island was Catholic back then, before
the heavy-accented, gold-cross-wearing
Pentecostals traded holy water
for the laying on of hands. The ritual:
wake, groom, dress, Corn Flakes, get ready for church.
There, the ritual was to stay awake.
My father promised I could make my own
decision about attending at thirteen.
I did. I left the church. But he left first.
There is no secret to it: the son does
what the father does until he doesn’t.
Our world was an idyllic place then. We were
insulated from most global news, and by
global, I mean New Jersey and beyond.
We were truly part of the middle class
and just a short drive from the most beautiful
beaches in the world. Fake ID actually
worked, and if you were lucky enough to date
an older girl, no one cared about the law.
Perhaps “churchlessness” is not a word yet,
but to Long Island Catholics, it was heaven.
Now, I am older and everything has changed.
I bought a nicer home than my father could,
and I have surpassed him in education
and income, even after adjusting for
inflation, yet I am lower middle class
because the middle class no longer exists.
The world is also more dangerous, or, perhaps,
I have that perception because of the news
cycle that is unceasing. Regardless,
I take my children to a non-Catholic,
non-Pentecostal church and they thrive.
Still, I cannot ignore the fact that but for
my father not being Muslim, I am not
Muslim and my children are not Muslim.
We are not Jews because he was not a Jew.
I take my children to the hospital
because he took me to the hospital.
Then, I was fifteen passing for eighteen;
today, my seventeen year old could not pass
for twenty-one. And I thank God that we
do not live near a beach because I cannot
bear the thought of my children being pulled
away from me, the two separated
with me having to make the choice to save one.
The mouth of the harmless newborn is violent
There is no greater colliding force than when
truth confronts a lie.
Hermeneutical errors start a long war while a
surprise attack, unintentionally, shortens a war.
The anodyne water that comprises most of our
bodies and our earth, that alleviates thirst, cools
or warms us, helps the flowers to face the sun,
flushes away our waste, ends droughts, and
makes children celebrate knows no violent equal,
the lack of it as threatening as the tsunami.
A boxer who refuses to fight in an unwarranted
war proves to be a man of peace.
The whistle I’d always slept through
nudged me, and I knew that on this
day, only one after I’d quit school,
I would be crowned a man by your
brothers, another virginity mislaid.
I would stick close to your side and
pretend to be the obedient son. We
would share a vow reserved for a
husband and wife, a becoming of
one. Your lungs were now mine.
You said I could never quit and set
a date for me to leave home so that
I would stay at you hip, you who
just yesterday let me quit school.
Even in the mine, I am yours.