From deep in the archives – the 14th day of Ramadhan, 1978

the 14th of Ramadan, 1978

it was a so-so fasting day,
late summer, early autumn,
can’t really remember the date,
but it was the best time of the year –

I remember it being a long day –
I spent the morning taking aptitude tests
at the Navy Recruiting Office.
I told them I wanted to learn languages,
but they said I had high enough scores
to go nuclear power, which, obviously
was a whole lot better…

I got back to the house late in the evening,
just before sunset.
All the brothers were assembled,
grumpy, antsy, anxious to break the fast
after a long day of work, classes, whatever,
mouths parched and bitter with thirst.

The two Sunni brothers joined us, the one who
smoked Newports at sunset, and the one
with the pure recitation from studying in Mecca.

Chicken was roasting in the oven
and one of the sisters had dropped off
a large bowl of salad, with sliced boiled eggs
and dates on the top for breaking the fast
in the traditional way.
There was a big pot of crowder peas and corn
simmering on the stove, and bread,
and carrot cake for dessert. later.

At sunset I sang the adhan.
The Sunni brothers
did their special rakats.
We waited.
Then everybody lined up
across the living room.

Allahu Akbar!
The day is done.
Thank the Lord!

Salatul mahgreb is taking forever!
A few more moments – a few more rakats…

Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah
Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.

Let’s eat!

We chill for a couple of hours,
listen to some Freddie Hubbard.
Then one of the brothers breaks out the book.
Day 14’s group reading begins:

“Again and again will those who disbelieve
wish they had bowed to God’s will in submission…”

“…let false hopes amuse them
soon will knowledge undeceive them.”

The Sunni brother from Brooklyn picks up
and shifts to Arabic. We struggle along
with the translation:

wa laqad ja-alna fis sama-i
Burou-jawn-wa zayyann naha lin nazireen.

it’s my turn. I switch back to my mother tongue:

And the Lord revealed to the Bee:
build hives in the mountains,
and in the trees,
and in human habitations.
Then eat of all the produce
and find with skill
the spacious paths…”

yeah, I like that part.

A good reading.
We stretch out on the floor
and catch a few winks
before Isha and Tarawih.


Author: Raymond Maxwell Librarian, archivist, retired foreign service officer and Navy veteran.

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