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Learning to Pray

after Kaveh Akbar

swishing water from the bottle

between my lips I witnessed

feet like pale fish overlapping

in the rinse over hot rock ma says

when i was born she brought me

here for the first time and it was just

a single room hardly a thrumming gurdwara

filled with cool light where all of our

slippers are kept so carefully by men

with beards soft as incense smoke

on the throat as we turn and press

our foreheads to white marble &

sit in our mothers’ laps watch the

foam of goat hair swat flies away

whilst lines of uncles and aunties swarm

in queues to kiss foreheads to

floor like pages of holy books falling

into place i never understood how

our gurdwara at home pulsed the same

tinny hymns through speakers

but with a ceiling of an office

what if i

lied & said that the damp was oceans

pressing leaks into these corners making them

sag with the weight of something sacred?

CIA MANGAT studies English at Wadham. Recently, she buzzed her hair off to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a sentient kiwi.

Art by Izzy Fergusson


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