To the Hawk Outside the Brand-New Mosque of Lombard, Illinois Unbelieving and prodigal, just here for a funeral, I bargain as you click a raptor toe on the roof of my hastily parked soft burrow, which is also my red exit and, as such, all my next days. Was this where a homey branch held your childhood nest, before you got the tough-loving push? Before the invading mammals held out permits and loans in trembling hands, stretched out black asphalt and put up concrete minarets. Or before when they prayed for years in heated tents over gravel, as you circled overhead and the white men in orange helmets that we paid —and sometimes I use we, when speaking to hawks— drove home each night and made dubious accounts of their aches? Or before that, when we were just a potluck in the borrowed space of the unitarian church, near the campus where the students could pretend to eat like they did at home. Where the imam smiled as a skinny engineering student sat next to me and tried, so earnestly, to make conversation and gave me the chance to pretend, too —were you keen to find others then, were you studying vague traces of shell? Or before that, when your well-flapped woods were cut by nothing but a strand of blue highway, and my father brought me to the barely finished basements and cold garages of grocery store owners —where the creaking cabbies led our bowing and praying, and collections were raised for one of the brighter versions of the future, did this hawk —did you, I say—know that some rituals built into our bodies would lead us both here, when all the obligations were reduced to wind and ashes? Those same old men, just today, marked on their waistlines how tall I once stood. Just here, where your talons and our fine memories find nothing to hold but the sight of a holy remnant of trees on the far side of the road. They wave to us and cause our flight feathers, our undyed cotton pennons made for prayer in other climates to wave, so earnestly, in response. We listen and retake our positions: me, an unfulfilled darting along the busy ground, you, an unforgiving eye in the hard marble sky—us in my soft burrow, in your red exit, in all our next days.
Ali Abid (he/him) is a writer, civil rights attorney, and policy advocate. He has been a featured storyteller at Pour One Out, a monthly storytelling series hosted by Volumes Bookcafe. Ali lives and works in Chicago.