After the Funeral of Assam Hamady

Sam Hamod

FOR MY MOTHER, DAVID AND LAURA

Cast:
Hajj Abbass Habhab: my grandfather
Sine Hussin: an old friend of my father
Hussein Hamod Subh: my father
me

6pm

middle of South Dakota
after a funeral in Sioux Falls
my father and grandfather
ministered the Muslim burial
of their old friend, Assam Hamady

me—driving the 1950 Lincoln
ninety miles an hour

“STOP! STOP!
stop this car!”

Why?
“STOP THIS CAR RIGHT NOW!”—Hajj Abbass
                                                     grabbing my arm from back seat
“Hysht Iyat? (What’re you yelling about?)”—my Father
“Shu bikkeee? (What’s happening?)”—Sine Hussin

I stop

“It’s time to pray”—the Hajj
                                yanks his Navajo blanket
                                opening the door

“It’s time to pray, sullee
the sun sets
time for sullee”

my Father and Sine Hussin follow
obedient
I’m sitting behind the wheel
watching, my motor still running

car lights scream by
more than I’ve ever seen in South Dakota

the Hajj spreads the blanket
blessing it as a prayer rug
they discuss which direction is East

after a few minutes it’s decided
it must be that way
they face what must surely be South

they face their East, then notice
I’m not with them

“Hamode! get over here, to pray!”

No, I’ll watch
and stand guard

“Guard from what—get over here!”

I get out of the car
but don’t go to the blanket

My father says to the others:
“He’s foolish, he doesn’t know how
to pray.”

they rub their hands
then their faces
rub their hands then
down their bodies
as if in ablution
their feet bare
together now
they begin singing

Three old men
chanting the Qur’an in the middle
of a South Dakota night

    “Allahu Ahkbar
    Allahu Ahkbar

    Ash haduu n lah illah illiliawhh
    Ash haduu n lah illah illilawhh

    Muhammed rasoul illawh”

in high strained voices they chant

    “Bismee lahee
    a rah’manee raheem”

more cars flash by

    “malik a youm a deen
    ehde nuseerota el mustakeem
    seyrota la theena”

I’m embarrassed to be with them

    “en umta ailiy him
    ghyrug mugthubee aliy him”

people stream by, an old woman strains a gawk at them

    “willathouu leen—
    Bismee lahee”

I’m standing guard now

    “a rah’maneel raheem
    khul hu wahu lahu uhud”

They’re chanting with more vigor now
against the cars—washing away
in a dry state
Hamady’s death
he floats from their mouths
wrapped in white

    “Allahu sumud
    lum yuulud wa’alum uulud”

striped across his chest, with green

    “Walum yankun a kuf one uhud
    will thouu leen”

his head in white, his gray mustache still

    “Ameen . . . “

I hear them still singing
as I travel half-way across
America
to another job
burying my dead
I always like trips, traveling at high speed
but they have surely passed me
as I am standing here now
trying so hard to join them
on that old prayer blanket—

as if the pain behind my eyes could be absolution

 

[Author’s note:] The Muslim prayer in this poem is analogous to The Lord’s Prayer

NPR READING, AFTER THE FUNERAL OF ASSAM HAMADY, SAM HAMOD

Sam Hamod– please see author’s complete biography on the home page, in additional works in this issue, and on the author’s page.