On My Tongue

Bismillah is my first memory.


I became a bird in the Qur’an

at hardly eight years old.


I opened the dark green cover

and revealed the slippery


two hearts: Arabic

and its English translation.


On Saturdays, I learned to repeat

passages in Arabic,


to recite the Qur’an

in its truest language—


otherwise are the locusts

really locusts?


I read and read, and yet

I struggled to recite in Arabic.


This was not a problem

with my memory.


I learned in a week how

to recite the first verse in English.


Sometimes I think every Qur’an

has a dark green cover.


Sometimes I think I still

become a bird


when, in my mind, I remember

Bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim.


This must be the reason I

​continue to love.


On my tongue, there is

a short-horned grasshopper.


Bismillah, I reach for you again.

Bibliographical info
Alycia Pirmohamed, "On My Tongue". Copyright © 2020 by Alycia Pirmohamed. Reprinted by permission of the author.
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