Twenty and One

January 20, 2015

In the same year, before the moon had gone twice over a missing sun

they, over an old gramophone, introduce a speech tax.

Rattling like his father, the king allocates each family

twenty and one words.

A stranger’s body, washed afloat by a tide,

uses up one: “shame”.

A lover— over the other side of life— says nothing;

the muezzin calls:

Allahu Akbar

On fourth take, a clerk counts.

Ash hadu an la ilaha illal lah

Twice. Counting fifteen.

Ash hadu an-na Muhammadar resulul-lah

Silence.

Heard between lovers and fathers

and, unanswered prayer calls.

The gramophone bellowing.

A lover walks (in search of words.

To loan).

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