Facing East

Beside a pillar among pillars
running long and straight
as those of the Great Mosque
in Cordoba, and holding
up the bridge upon which
Central Avenue runs north-south,
a man has placed his mat
where sunlight cannot reach
and kneels so as to touch it
with his forehead
before standing up then kneeling
back into his prayer. He stands
up again and raises
his face toward the passing
traffic’s concrete roar
that flows above him, although
he gives no sign he hears it
when he opens his palms
to face out from his shoulders
and presses them back
against the ground
as he curls himself so small
he’s close to invisible
among a few downtown pigeons
who strut and fluff
their feathers in the shade.
Nothing here suggests
the sacred. Not the garbage
bins and not the utilitarian
lamps positioned to illuminate
the night hours when
stray cats pass by. Not the drab
and littered semblance
of an underworld. And not
the bundle rolled and placed
behind the man with all that he
possesses to be thankful for.
Up the steps, on the bank
between the road
and library, in the brightness
of the afternoon, men
and women occupy their time,
sit and smoke, sit and argue, sit
and listen to their radios,
sit and turn the pages
in their Bibles, sit and sit
and ponder the Book of Revelations
or the sports page from
a newspaper discarded days ago.
Old news is still news, whether
it goes back a day
or a decade; whether the referee
at Sunday’s game was horribly
misguided, or
the call to prayer could be
heard as one to war.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978. He grew up in England with watching soccer as a major part of life although he has managed to move on to other interests since then, including reading and writing poetry. Read other articles by David.