Were there signs? like static dries and up-stands the hairs of wives in the hour before a thunderstorm there were signs: one day he asked if I was seeing anyone else and because we were two birds holding our breath in the knotted throat of a tree I brought my nose to his nose said in my fobbiest accent I am seeing one bald one-eyed man with hair on every toe! hello! and because we were two fish hiding from sky at the bottom of a wishing well he tickled me till I curled the water one day he said I am running as fast as I can to stand still with you these are two many lives for one me one day he waited for me to finish praying before saying what are you doing? that prayer following a transgression must involve some kind of apology is a common misconception it is possible to pray the way one dices an onion the way one touches each doorknob of a house in the morning for luck if there is reverence in flossing meat from between upper molars or beginning symmetric activities with the right side of the body it is possible when kneeling in worship to be distracted by thoughts of another kneeling it is even easier to flex the kegel muscles in prostration but let’s not get sentimental some things are done in order to be done.
Excerpted from Washes, Prays by Noor Naga.
Copyright © 2020 Noor Naga.
Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.
Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher.
All rights reserved.
Noor Naga is an Alexandrian writer who was born in Philadelphia, raised in Dubai, studied in Toronto, and now lives in Alexandria. She is the winner of the 2017 Bronwen Wallace Award, the 2019 Disquiet Fiction Prize, and the 2019 Graywolf Press Africa Prize. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Granta, The Walrus, The Common, The Sultan’s Seal, POETRY, and more. Her debut novel American Girl and Boy from Shobrakheit is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in Fall 2021.
RBC Bronwen Wallace Award winner Noor Naga's bracing debut, a novel-in-verse about a young woman's romantic relationship with a married man and her ensuing crisis of faith.
"These poems glide between scenes of quiet intimacy and smiling friendship. They get to the heart of difficult matter the way good poets do—by admitting awe and honesty.Washes, Prays is an inventive, genre-defying hybrid that offers a deeply necessary portrait of a Muslim woman. It dissolves stereotypes . . . making room for female desire, friendship, and the consolations of faith."
—Quill & Quire
“[E]xhilarating, mile-a-minute prose poems that are fresh, provocative, and often funny. These visceral pieces take surprising hairpin turns, pulling the reader through proclamations, inquiries, and bursts of self-doubt. Noor Naga achieves all this with a language that is rich and sensory, and a visually rigid structure that counter-intuitively unfolds to allow a multiplicity of pacing and play.”
—RBC Bronwen Wallace Award Jury Citation