When My Classmates Ask Me If My Father Took Down the Towers

I realize the mirror was in on the joke, too. How had I not known before now?
Now we can all see my bones are the only white about me,
and my nose curves like the yaw of a plane, and my hair curling in the dust.

They ask if my father took down the towers, and,
as it was a lack of security leading to a loss of gravity, yes, in a way he did,
in that my mother starts smoking again and suddenly I become

fascinated with fire. I light candles with other candles, recycling light
until my room looks like I’m trying to summon something. Maybe
                                                               I’m trying to summon something —

into divinity, or out from the grave, or the attention of any god
who will teach me how to pray the right way. My father doesn’t
pray anymore, another quality he shares with the dead.

The sun glares down on the blacktop like fingers
digging into a bruise. Everyone crowds around me,
waiting for an answer, and sweat drips down my cheek.

Wax running from a flame. Ant under a telescope, I melt, I sizzle.
I feel so exposed for what I did not know I was
that surely someone is staring down at me from above,

a stranger with the face of someone else’s father.
Is He waiting for an answer, too? What language must I clasp between my hands
for Him to listen? O Father, who art in heaven, whose children surround me

on all sides like a flood, teach me how to float. Maybe it isn’t too late for any of us;
maybe no one ever needed to die to be forgiven. If I give them
the right answer. If I learn the right words.

Maybe God will tape the plane together and throw it back
into the sky, and we can be white again.

— Jaz Sufi (from Southeast Review)