Mosque Sheikh Zayed, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Dana Alsamsam

They tuck the women into a tiny room        hand us polyester dresses with head covers        My sister and I do our best to become holy in four sizes too large        and enter this white marble mass that anchors the city        My little sister says there’s no real muslims anywhere!        And I wonder if we are the exception or the rule?        It’s as if we never spent each Saturday on a small pilgrimage to Dar-al-Huda        The House of Guidance        a place where I’d wrap and cover and pin the only part of my appearance I thought was pretty beneath a hijab        wear a black pleated skirt that never hung quite right        trip over the threshold of that enlightened house where all the other girls had hadith dripping from their tongues        Perhaps I’ll always be alien        It takes no majesty to recognize this as we reach the entrance        Two rows        one for believers who come to pray        one for tourists who want to see an authentic rendition of prayer under the echo of gilded vault        My father goes to pray        my sister follows        I pause at the threshold        believer on a sign in four languages        What do I believe besides what my body tells me?        I enter on the tourist side feeling the cool marble on bare feet        the heat on the rest of my skin        I watch my father and sister pray from behind a red rope        They prostrate their bodies to sujood like camels stooped to drink from water        Nobody would guess that I know them        that I know these prayers like phases of the moon

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Photo:
Amy Fink

Dana Alsamsam is a first generation Syrian-American from Chicago and is currently based in Boston where she works in arts development. A Lambda Literary fellow, she received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Redivider and Senior Editorial Assistant at Ploughshares. Her poems are published or forthcoming in The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, North American Review, The Shallow Ends, The Offing, Salamander, BOOTH, The Common and others.

Summer & Fall 2020

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