Dawn reminds me of my father,
when I hear the morning birds
I think of him waking me
in the still-dark gently,
his voice softer and older
than I remember.
‘It’s time to pray, habooba,’
Like my visits home,
nights bookended in salah
are always too short.
My eyes are heavy,
‘Ok, baba’ I say.
For these few days,
we are family again.
In the bathroom
I pretend to make wudu.
I turn on the faucet
and let it run
to be convincing.
We pray and we hug after we pray,
and in the midst of rituals,
I sometimes forget the years
haven’t been easy on us.
I used to fit in the palms of his hands.
‘Look,’ he says, ‘I held you like this!’
I remember saying goodbye to him,
at my new university, standing under a tree,
waving and crying as his old car drove away.
For the first time I suspected what I know by now:
there would be no going back. I am an unbeliever.
The Qu’ran says that Allah
has placed a cloak over my eyes
so that I cannot find the straight path again,
and he has sealed my heart,
so that I cannot have faith again.
But my blind eyes still see you, father.
And inside the heart Allah sealed shut,
I will always love you.