by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

ShadeTreeAllahu Akbar or God is Great, the anthem stolen by the wicked terrorist, whose attack is aimed at life, what holds life together for me— the zikr: Allahu Akbar, God is Greater, greater than prayer, greater than the spectacularly leaping science, the elegance of logic, the morality police, the lust of the spirit or the intellect, greater than the molten heart of a mother, a day laborer’s fatigue, greater than the beauty of discipline, the disciple of beauty, the ecstasy of disarray, greater than terra firma or the firmament, greater than sorrow. This is the way of the Sufi Rabia of Basra, dousing hellfire with water and setting heaven on fire as she walked with a pitcher and an open flame, declaring how God’s love is greater than punishment, greater than reward.

I peel fruit close to its skin. Life is precious and scarce, not like rubies but like air— will it carry my words faithfully to you? War machine, war machine: Will water keep on rhyming with martyr? Will hospitals go dark, gasping for electricity? Will fathers go on talking to meat in plastic bags— as if it is Omar or Nadia, Hassan or Nur, listening—lifeless, grave-less? Missile from airstrike, missile from drone, bullet, car-bomb, roadside bomb: do you hear: your target was the sacred; out of a living child you made meat and ash.

This is bitter and no anthem.

For me is my zikr, for you, yours. Come, sit; only one tree but I swear its shade stretches for us all.