SHAZIA HAFIZ RAMJI You and the Muezzin

I am far away from being able to ask
if you know     what it’s like to not know
a gift         the woman next to me
cups her hands around tubs of food
in her tote bag    she is smiling
like a child carrying a secret     injury
or a pet snake    when I look outside
a man is asking    to be closer
and I want to sing      a reed
its fuzzed stubble body swollen
with swamp air     alert    stinging
like cocaine straight to the head    a task
I had once given myself to ask     how far away you were
then    and now    and now again
when you are ready for bed and remember you slept
four in the same room    mom and dad
your sister and you     in the dark
breathing quietly      too quietly    so you hummed
and they hummed back    and you hummed
and they hummed         then they lurched you into it
their giving mending you into night
and morning      you woke up before six
and hid under the blanket     hoping it was dark
but the sky was fish-skin tarp     the promise
of an opening     you hummed again    to forget
the jackal rifling through the rubbish
you hummed to drown out the call to prayer
azaan from a loudspeaker   you hummed
you and the muezzin   both asking others to listen

Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s first book, Port of Being (Invisible Publishing), received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and was one of CBC’s best Canadian poetry books of 2018. Her fiction and criticism have appeared in The Humber Literary Review, Chicago Review of Books, and Quill & Quire. She will be a writer in residence with Open Book in 2019. She lives on unceded Coast Salish land (Vancouver) where she is at work on a novel.

Photo by Mario Caruso