Mohamud At The Mosque - For My Student Upon His Graduation
And some time later in the lingering
blaze of summer, in the first days
after September 11th you phoned –
if I don’t tell anyone my name I’ll
pass for an African American.
And suddenly, this seemed a sensible solution –
the best protection: to be a black man
born in America, more invisible than
Somalian, Muslim, asylum seeker –
Others stayed away that first Friday
but your uncle insisted that you pray.
How fortunes change so swiftly
I hear you say. And as you parallel
park across from the Tukwila
mosque, a young woman cries out –
her fears unfurling beside your battered car
go back where you came from!
You stand, both of you, dazzling there
in the mid-day light, her pavement
facing off along your parking strip.
You tell me she is only trying
to protect her lawn, her trees,
her untended heart – already
alarmed by its directive.
And when the neighborhood
policeman appears, asks
you, asks her, asks the others –
So what seems to be the problem
He actually expects an answer,
as if any of us could name it –
as if perhaps your prayers
chanted as this cop stands guard
watching over your windshield
during the entire service
might hold back the world
we did not want to know.