Poem for impending rapture perhaps —
By Kazim Ali
What I want to know is: of all the people preparing to be taken in the rapture why is no one as brave as my current heroine, the wife of Lot, who refused to follow to be saved and instead turned back to save others. If she was turned into a pillar of salt for her troubles, why has it occurred to none that being turned into this most valuable of substances in the ancient world could possibly have been meant as a reward? — “Marah’s Song/The Wife of Lot”
Sundered and sinful, caught in the rain of fire
nearly devoured, now inch by long inch turning to salt,
that’s me, the blasphemer, Sodomite, unsure of what’s true
making a break for the shelter ahead,
wondering if it will ever sink in,
will I ever learn what we did wrong—
Drench me well, downpour, combust me to ash.
After the first deluge they lit the first fire
so now, after the city burns, a merciful downpour,
rain hitting the roof like an angelic stranger, but
who was I before the thorn of my birth pierced me,
before the thread of my death drew me through?
After the garden there was still the world,
since the womb cracked open and water poured through,
but before fire stitched me in salt to the ground, who was I,
before I traveled through a body into a body, who was I?
If I’m rain I should pray for a vessel to hold me,
If I’m vessel I should pray for the rain to fill me.
The storm has reneged on the deal to abate
and the fire itself seems eternal—
The last prophets boarded the ark for departure,
but this time amid fire I am the water—
You are ahead of me fifty one paces,
leaning on our daughters hoping they’ll hold you—
This time I cannot follow you forward,
this time I look back to the city that’s burning,
and yes in that moment, doubting believer,
I was transformed into the most precious of matter,
when the first drops hit me first I was hollowed,
as the downpour commenced I could feel myself vanish—
I became one with the ground in the night of great fire
given life as a priceless pillar,
then slowly disappearing
into the infinity of water,
not curse, or condemnation one but
salt into water, an endless reward—
Kazim Ali is is the author of two books of poetry, The Far Mosque (Alice James Books), winner of Alice James Books’ New England/New York Award, and The Fortieth Day (BOA Editions, 2008). Ali is also the author of the novel Quinn’s Passage (blazeVox books), named one of “The Best Books of 2005” by Chronogram magazine; The Disappearance of Seth (Etruscan Press, 2009); Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities (Wesleyan University Press, 2009); Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art and the Architecture of Silence (University of Michigan Press, 2010), and Fasting for Ramadan (Tupelo Press, 2011). He is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program of the University of Southern Maine. His work has been featured in many national journals such as Best American Poetry 2007, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Barrow Street, jubilat and Massachusetts Review. He teaches at Oberlin College and the Stonecoast MFA program and is a founding editor of Nightboat Books.