Open

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Image by Adam Jones

In the basement of the unmarked
old factory, boys cluster
and pray in gray light, which enhances
the glitter of their skull caps,
embroidered by grandmothers in Bangladesh.

They have every legal right to pray here
but the elders debated
where and when to put up signage
and the mosque has remained
almost hidden these 16 years.
They settled on a small green sign facing a field.
Hardly a soul wanders back here
without a reason.

I am a neighbor, one of those
who sticks their nose in,
bringing cookies and books,
chatting cross-legged with the women over chai.

It seemed like the right thing.
At first they wondered if
I was a possible convert, but
one Passover I brought matzoh and chocolates and
they laughed.

Now, each week I tutor the children, waiting
for prayers to end, leaning into
the vibrations. Their faces
open like flowers.

 

Cathleen Cohen is an educator and artist who lives near Philadelphia. She spends her time tutoring youth in deprived areas of Philadelphia while overseeing ArtWell’s We the Poets program (a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia). Her work appears in various journals and in a chapbook titled Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017). She has received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy.

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