Samir Atassi




When I was twelve my father called me to
Salat, prayer, I’d mimic him on my own
Rug, his balding head bowed like a monk’s, back straight
As the Golan Heights, hands folded over navel
Left under right.

His thin black eyebrows would press down
To the fraying gold tassle, his lips tracing the curvature
Of prayers in Arabic, whispering them
Into the ground, or
Through the dome of the masjid in the rug. Only
The sibilants could be heard slipping
Through his teeth, down into his
Chest, to stay in the cotton fibers
Of the sweatshirt my mother bought him five
Christmases ago with “World’s Greatest Dad” stitched
Above a picture of a fat man in a La-Z-Boy
With a remote control bigger than his hand.
He told me,

In the Koran it’s called The Night of Power.
It’s one of the last ten nights of Ramadan, no one
Knows which one, but it’s said that Heaven comes
Down to sit and listen at the mortal door. You can ask Allah
For anything. He will grant it.

Every Sunday afternoon he gathered us
Around the ottoman, & me & Leila &
Lena all stared into the oversized red leather-
Bound book, its delicate green-hued pages
Thinner than dollars, aswirl with letters
Of gold foil. I remember thinking that the book
Looked more like an ornate door. Years

Later, there was my own try at a power
Grab, on a night that I could not sleep. I wore
A shirt saying “World’s Oldest Son,” pushing
Out wishes I no longer had, and the night
Dressed me in a frayed robe, & the light
From my cell-phone on the floor next to
The dome went dark, and my hair fell out
To the sound of sibilants . . .