Hinged on the image of Muslim cab driver finding a moment of serenity in communion with God in the chaos of New York City, Brandon James O’Neil’s “City Adhan” offers readers that same serenity. Juxtaposing the simple peace of prayer with the contrasting hardness and urban difficulties of modern day Manhattan, this poem suggests that God is everywhere and belongs to every single one of us.
City Adhan In the merciful name of one they claim is only— hasten to prayer—hasten to salvation and with a brush pulled from the side door sweep this city curb—I see the cab driver with his pocket compass turn himself toward Mecca, unroll his carpet woven faded blue and claim a space amid exhaust and horns— here he and Allah, most merciful, most here, commune in praise Prayer is better than wandering these unsleeping blocks mystified by Manhattan’s grid counting each bus stop seeking one going our direction Prayer is better than returning to our studio—too small and too expensive—ordering takeout after eight hours of office space—dozing off while Netflix asks if we’re still watching Prayer is yes better my brother of the book as you bend toward the east our communion deepens—although I do not pray beside you I too seek peace in streets where paradise and the grave hold the same lease where beauty and ugliness, death and new life grow over the concrete I too pray here in the city where God could seem so far if we didn’t know Him to be ever ours.
Brandon James O’Neil
Brandon James O’Neil is a poet and scholar from Rochester, Michigan. He has recently relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona after living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His work has appeared in Plough, Image, and Psychological Perspectives.