Life: The End is Just The Beginning
for my son, Abdur-Rahmaan Ben-Mahmoud
Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; Then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging; Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators! Then lo! after that ye surely die.
—The Noble Quran; Surah Al-Mu’minum (The Believers) 23:12-15
Life! says Mama. If life is sacred
from the instant of conception
why doesn’t anybody name miscarriage?
This is what happened before me,
but after my sister. There could have been
another sister or a brother. Thousands of souls
from day to day touch down, but earth
to some is like a stopover in Greensboro
the unlucky deplane and have to live here,
while the rest, after a head count, take off again.
I hallooed across the amniotic sea,
the three veils of darkness; the darkness
of the womb; the darkness of the uterus,
and the darkness of the placenta; Mama
says, I was a fetus within these three veils
of darkness, a boy, in tandem with the heart’s
awoken wink, which is why music can do
what it does to the pulse. A name is a caul,
a full-body scuba suit of call you echolocate
when you dive into the world. Mama calls me Ben
for short. Some days you wash the windows
so you will see how clear the outside of our home has become
while it waits for me; so you won’t ever forget
how much you had to break inside, become the kind of boy
hurried into this new life like it was a bullet train
that could leave without me. Violent. The steel wool
of an inner child’s drawing of a rain gray cloud come to life
to tear the rest, and order one who hasn’t learned to love
to love. Does he know our voices? Mama once said
to my father. She tells me the first part,
just like I’m telling you now, how
I came to the both of them out of her darkness
the water trickling and the candles whispering
making sure I am awake, how someone hands me
for whatever weather might be coming. I’m now 16.
Then she tells me the second part. The part where father is about
to lose it—bit by bit like when you wear a hole through your sock,
but suddenly—like when you leave your scarf on a bus
or drop a glove off your lap when you step out of a car.
Because none of that could put a crack in it, all of that
was only noise outside the soundproof room—
the room that father’s voice that was silence—unless,
and he wasn’t expecting this—unless someone threw one in
when he wasn’t looking: a question through his window, a question
wrapped around a stone, a question like a storm that could
blow out all the pages of this book, while he races
around the room, wondering, where did I lose my scarf?
Mama’s question wasn’t anything profound—it was only surprising
it hadn’t occurred to her sooner, it was: How can it be someone’s time?
I mean, the time for father to leave? And he took everything with him—
just as if it were his time. And when she told me this, she said,
This would make a terrific book, the kind we really like to publish.
The kind people are always looking for. Go on, I say. And she says,
Go on with what? And I say, The third part. The part
everyone wants. The part where you find something better than
just go on, go on—like he only knows the voice of his mother.
Today, a child
will ask about
home and bullets
a force that rises
in this country
at home, everything burns
a live act of entropy
the ultimate weapon
of destruction, a reminder
in the end, everything
turns to ash.
© Ilari Pass
Ilari Pass holds a BA in English from Guilford College of Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University of Boiling Springs, NC. Her work appears or forthcoming in Rat’s Ass Review, As It Ought To Be, Rigorous, Triggerfish Critical Review, Common Ground Review, The Daily Drunk, Rejection Letters, Free State Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and others.