Muslim Prayers

Rebecca Ruth Gould

My udon noodles were longer,

thicker & probably tastier

than your beef tongue.

I never found out

because I forgot to eat,

as I often do when captivated

by someone.

I grasped the chopsticks

in my hand & watched

you check your watch

every five minutes.

You were working to a deadline.

There was something wrong—

yet also right—about being

together with you,

eating pan-Asian in St Pancras,

you telling me about your wife’s

previous sex life & me

projecting my every thought

of you onto someone else—

so that our friendship would

never abandon its purpose—

& the Muslim formulas

that we repeated as infidels,

binding our heresies together.

‘In sha’ Allah. If God wills,

there will be mercy on us.

I thought about how

it would have been to be

a sibling to you, or a lover

or just a friend, unburdened

by expectations.

I thought about your wife too

& the strength of her will

& you reading stories

to your daughter every night in bed.

All this passed through my head

as you stood to pay the bill.

A life lived well flashed before me

& I just wanted to tell you:


As-Salamu Alaykum.

May God be praised.

May peace be upon you.

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Rebecca Ruth Gould's poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). Her poem “Grocery Shopping” was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry in 2017, and she is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She can be found on twitter (@rrgould) and Instragam (r.r.gould) and her website is