Friday, October 20, 2017

On the Day of Judgment, the Only People I Want to See are Strangers


Last night my body and I went to a lecture on Malcolm X. 

As my attentive hand wrote something in my most important little notebook,

Something about Malcolm's 
But really the Prophet Muhammad's 
Message of embracing the Stranger 
And being the Stranger, 
Pushing against the ways of the world,

Some probably young bodies sitting on either side of me in the sacred front row of the theater 
Got up and walked out 
Only twenty minutes or so into the lecture. 
Two or three from my right side, 
One or two from my left side. 
Then another here, 
An Other there. 
And I complained in my body and my heart 
That these students could be so ignorant of common courtesy 
And academic etiquette 
At this most interesting and important talk.

Were they expecting visual aids? 
More quotes from Malcolm himself? 
At least some sound bites from that powerfully convicting voice that was silenced only as it began its most threatening change? 
What a disruptive thing to do, and strange.

A few paragraphs later 
We were following the lecturer through Africa 
And that ever strange Middle East 
That changed Malcolm's body 
And his name 
By teaching him how to pray, 
The most trying and painful experience of Malik's life, 
More than losing a father, 
Then losing a mother, 
Then losing his freedom, 
Then losing his faith in his own Nation, 
Because that's how hard prayer is supposed to be.

As I scratched some important thing into my notebook 
About the body and the heart or whatever 
And thought about how I must read those travel diaries this speaker was citing, 
Some bodies returned to the front row, 
Two or three, then one or two, then an Other and another, 
And I saw that one of these Strangers held a rug, 
Loosely wrapped, 
And I felt ashamed as all of these bodies 
With whom mine dared to dwell in the sacred front row 
Returned triumphant from battle against the ways of the world, 
Against my ways of sitting quietly 
And so-called respectfully, 
In the postures I believed everyone was supposed to maintain in the halls of academia.

When we all get to Heaven, 
What a day of rejoicing that will be, 
For I will meet all the Sinners and the Strangers 
And ask them to forgive unworthy me.