By Agha Shahid Ali
between the day’s
five calls to prayer
the women of the house
pulling thick threads
rosaries of ginger
of rustling peppers
in autumn drying for winter
in those intervals this rug
part of Grandma’s dowry
so the Devil’s shadow
would not desecrate
with minarets of gold
but then the sunset
call to prayer
their straw mats unrolled
praying or in the garden
in summer on grass
the children wanting
the prayers to end
the women’s foreheads
silk stone of sacrifice
black stone descended
the pilgrims in white circling it
this year my grandmother
also a pilgrim
in Mecca she weeps
as the stone is unveiled
she weeps holding on
to the pillars
(for Begum Zafar Ali)
Agha Shahid Ali, “Prayer Rug” from The Half-Inch Himalayas. Copyright © 1987 by Agha Shahid Ali. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/.
Source: The Half-Inch Himalayas (Wesleyan University Press, 1987)
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