Archive for January, 2011



To Sleep through the Call to Prayer

I have not yet learned to sleep through the call to prayer. It carries over the rooftops, ten thousand loudspeakers just out of sync, a monophonic rondo that sweeps me into the seventh century. The call is both far and close; it is, like the Southern Cross, a whisper from another time.

But no one counts the hours or the years. There are no seasons, the days are unchanging. Nothing dies out, nothing freezes over—not the mosquitos, not the refuse in the river beds. Everywhere we look we find the litter of surplus, the riot of vegetation, the overgrowth of humanity spilling out, as if God’s thermometer has snapped apart over the streets and its mercury dots have become the motorcycles.

Five men sit under a sheet metal screen, quiet as a constellation. They are waiting. They are blank with waiting, waiting for anything to happen. The hours pass uncounted, news and trivia fall into the gutters with the rest of it, with the wastes of humanity.

This peace is mystic, ancient and crushing. They say never to add music to what silence has said best, but this is a peace I want to shatter with a chord. And you—with you I want to rouse the street, not to prayer but to life. I want us to inspire the roofs to lift and the vines to tumble, the city to erupt like the volcanos that surround it, leaving gardens in the craters and love letters in the igneous pillars.

Tonight, love, we will gather up and organize. Tomorrow before dawn we will storm the mosques, fill them to bursting, spill out over their grounds. A choir of thousands, we will sing through their megaphones. We will make an instrument of them, the greatest organ ever built, the throat of Jakarta. Together we will join in a resonance that will rise into the sky and fall onto us, a celestial command that, touching our foreheads, will lift us to our feet.