the sky holds magenta streaked with green
the horizon is a close line pulling
the sun             the sun takes
the light with it and leaves
the heat behind        on the shore
the girl stands with her feet
in the water

the Imam waits

the bilal begins         the girl gasps      holds
her BassLine. her Script hums slowly at first.
the azaan grows louder. the girl’s Script tears
into an ache. the girl holds her BassLine.

           “Exhale,” the Imam says.
“Your instinct is to brace against it      to fight.
“This is not the way          you must empty out
and let Rhythm                    fill you.”

“but it hurts,”     the girl says.
her BassLine sticks
in her chest. her diaphragm tense.

                “I know,”      the Imam says.
“It hurts because        you do not trust it
not because it is painful.
It hurts because you do not know     what it is
not because it seeks to do you harm.
Say the prayer,”     the Imam says.

“i don’t know the prayer.”

“You are not in TheDaytime anymore, child.
Here, what you know      and do not know
remains for you to be seen.

Close your eyes        say the prayer.”

the girl exhales. her BassLine rushes
from her mouth. she closes her eyes. her Script aches
with the azaan. the bilal’s voice drives through
the magenta-green sky. the horizon pulls
the sun closer. the girl inhales. her BassLine floods
through her sternum. reaches her left wrist.
her Script singes. their words sing in her head.
“I am the child of         and         .” it is the mother’s voice.
“The thing you are most afraid of
is the thing you must walk towards,” the mother says.
grief punches her sternum. shoots her eyes open.

“Close your eyes say the prayer,” the Imam repeats gently.

the girl wants to run. the Song of Grief fights to flood her sternum.
the bilal’s voice is stronger. the azaan bristles her Script. their words
sing in her head. the mother’s voice. the girl searches inside herself
for the prayer. inhale. exhale. the girl sees the mother. the mother is
kneeling. at a fire. under TheCanopy. the mother’s hands are flat
on the soil. the mother speaks, “And what emptiness must fill me /
before I am suitable enough to be a home for music?”
Rhythm floods the mother. song falls from her throat.
the girl inhales. feels the magenta-green sky above her. feels the horizon pull the sun closer. the azaan still sounds. her Script is a fever. trapped in a single line around her left wrist. it burns. it stings. her sternum is a painful place. the girl exhales. “and what emptiness must fill me / before I am suitable enough to be a home for music?”

the words whisper from her mouth
to the wet shore. the girl inhales.
her BassLine floods her sternum.
it takes the azaan’s Rhythm. it moves through her
front ribs. around to her back. across
to her scapulas. rushes up her neck.
song rises in her throat. the girl’s mouth opens.
the song refuses to sing from her.

not a single note is heard.

the girl falls to her knees. she sobs.
the SongofGrief rushes her sternum.
through her femurs down to her feet.
the searing is unbearable.

the girl opens her mouth again.
the song refuses to sing from her.
a song not Remembered will not live
in the limbs of a Rhythm who does not know how to hold it.

the girl’s mouth is
a cavern without echo.

the girl cries. but even her cry is silent.
sound will not live in her.
her Script sears with fever. it throbs
against her skin. the 6/8 Rhythm returns
faster. stronger. searing through her limbs.
it topples her sternum. her BassLine runs
ragged. the girl heaves onto the shore.
the horizon swallows the last slip of sun.
the girl faints.

Audio version performed by the author.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2022)
More Poems by Toni Giselle Stuart