National Poetry Month Day 18: Hafizah Geter

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My Brother-in-law Recites the Takbir

In the revolving door of my sister’s apartment,
my brother-in-law kneels East, palms the Quran.

Feet washed, he crosses arms over chest
drowning the days as heavy stones

in supplication.
My sister,

confusing devotion
with taking him back, bows

by his side. It is a sight
that makes my knees buckle

so beautiful and familiar
to the days I spent

prostrate, mimicking
our mother’s morning prayers,

the beads of her misbaha
squeezed tightly between

my fingers
as I sung the ninety-nine names

of Allah. The first time
my brother-in-law leaves,

his shadow in the bed sheets
is the braille

my sister deciphers her swollen belly
across. The second time, she comes

to sleep at my house,
their new son

at her nipple like a hooked fish.
It is winter in Chicago.

My brother-in-law,
having broken

every syllable between them,
turns silence into metaphor.

My sister prays towards the god
of our mother and our memories.

A god I hope would rather
throw away a miracle

than bend an ear
towards the wishes

of a father who has weaponized
leaving. My sister

looks out into her life
cooled by the breeze

of a door slamming. A man
who only looks back,

when returning.
My brother-in-law is home

again. I cradle their son in my arms
so they can pray.

Enough history between us
that my nephew calms quickly, reaches

towards my chest
as if searching

for my sister’s residue, his eyes
so new they are my prayer.

With my nephew in my arms
the only thing between Allah and me

are two cans and a string.
My brother-in-law’s need

a valley, my sister’s a mirror.
With his eyes wide

open, my brother-in-law raises both hands
and recites the Takbir, the storm in him

quelling to a melody and already I know
the next time he leaves

my sister will invite him back
into her body,

her temperature just beginning
to drop

after carrying the weight
of two heartbeats.


Born in Zaria, Nigeria, Hafizah Geter‘s poetry and prose have appeared in the New Yorker, Tin House, Narrative Magazine, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s, and Longreads, among others. She is an editor for Little A from Amazon Publishing and serves on the poetry committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival. More from this author →