The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2023

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APRIL 2023 Issue


After Guillaume Apollinaire

Here is a shelf with cookbooks, dictionaries,
and Rumi.
Here is the cat.
Here is a cockroach the cat killed.
Here is the kitchen window, morning garbage truck.
Here in the bottom drawer of the freezer—compost overflowing eggshells.
Here is my hand in your hand.
Here is the power cord and the outlet that doesn’t work.
Here is Sunday.
Here, lunch—dal, rice, mango pickle.
Here in my pocket, three laundry quarters and a receipt.
Here is Amy Goodman on the radio.
Here is the war, the war, the war.
Here are my socks next to your socks.
Here are the bills and a post card with flamingos from Amir.
Here on the top shelf, my first hijab—blue, from decades ago.
Here, on the doorknob, the sun.
Here’s your blazer that’s sometimes my blazer.
Where is my phone?
I have to call my mother.
Here, a photo of us at Café Allegro. 11 years ago. Our hair long.
Here is my janamaz and the Quran.
Here is the vibrator.
Here, uff, the shower drain clogged again.
Here is our fifth apartment together.
Here are my eyes.
Look—how they rest in yours.


when you & I meet      we inshallah     for every tomorrow 

every promise               to return          to reach

across the river            down the highway        over the next town

on the other side of the border             through the booth       the gate

it doesn’t matter           whether or not you or I believe

in gods              no God          but God            we call out              inshallah

like newborns who thirst & swallow      first breath of air 

mouthful of milk          knowing without learning         the way eyes squint 

against the sun                         or chin tilts upward toward light

follows a mother’s face

inshallah           what you are waiting for is coming       letters       documents  

that cheque           that yes         that visa         a gravel path leading to the sea 

inshallah that text           from the woman you ran into last night 

will glow in your pocket                        hey, coffee?

& even when the email in your inbox cuts your heart     I’m sorry 

to inform you     we are unable to offer    & you don’t get the job      the loan

the rent-stabilized apartment     or the lover      ghosts you  

admits to the lies                       the betrayal

somehow one of us still says inshallah       hand on the other’s shoulder         

eye into eye                 voice into ear               over the phone          

a shut door means it was never the way

inshallah elsewhere         another door is being built    with your name

& though you burn      in embers of worry         a pending biopsy

a dark cough                eyes dilate as you read the diagnosis       headlines       

a cyclone             in a cousin’s province       the phone will ring inshallah

a message in middle of the night              yes, I’m okay     I’m safe

even as the city’s left lung collapses      no sign 

of oxygen tanks or hospital beds          street corners smoked with grief 

alight with pyres           we pray            at the foot of every grave

inshallah           may you travel hereafter with ease

we march         across boulevards           shut down the streets

inshallah          from the river to the sea             Palestine will be free

& we keep going           you & I            torso facing forward

our will muscled                 hooved            galloping  

unstoppable             heart pumping                 steady

beating           inshallah             with trust        across uncertain fields

In the Northwest Corner of America 1986

At the mosque before the mosque 

there are no minarets  no domes

just a house            wooden 

rental                at the edge 

of a city       women

freshly permed or scarved

Zuhr prayer             a song

the azan  & 

news from Kabul 

a game                of hide & seek    

between parked cars    &   pine trees

children with a taste

for The Muppets & myths

from the Kingdom of Cham

courtyards in Lahore

& Brother Khaled from Chicago

who rolls his jeans      tilts a black kufi

& Jaleela’s mom opening the screen door

with a platter of Ritz         & slices

of Red Delicious                 my mother

in mustard sandals from JC Penny

cotton shalwar kameez & talk 

of Falasteen      once up on a time

the Battle         of Badr

lessons from the Prophet

& have you tasted the salt of Kashmir     

every Sunday                shoulder to shoulder

Bismillahi Rahmanir Raheem

no trained imam           just Amin Uncle

or maybe my father      reciting    

Al-Fatiha      The Opening


Sahar Romani

Sahar Romani is author of the forthcoming chapbook, The Opening, selected by Kazim Ali as a winner of the 2022 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems also appear in The Margins, Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets, The Yale Review, Guernica, The Believer, and elsewhere. She teaches first-year writing at New York University.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2023

All Issues