Original illustration by Anne Le Guern


The name of God is sufficient
for me. Merciful, beneficent — I want
to want little else. I shouldn’t
say that I’m there yet, wanting little
else but the name, not when
nothing flusters me like an image,
Mount Tamalpais in acrylic salmon
and sage, the hue, the brown eddies
of my own eyes, every staggering sight —
but I hush them, my zealous eyes. I recite.
Said the angel recite in the name
of your lord
. I come from
a people who begin with the name,
who absent the face, who efface
and know it faith. Who say bismillah
before breathing, before leaving. The name
is in the name, ism, in the name,
in Arabic. You see, I don’t see
to believe, don’t desire a babbling bush
or shrinking sea-halves. I am trying
not to worship my eager eyes.
Doesn’t the mantis shrimp see more
color than any other creature alive?
A poet says our long gone loves remain
lateral, unseen but quiet beside us, perhaps.
I admire that belief in a love that doesn’t leave.
Here-ism, or remainism, more convincing
an -ism that beckons than inflicts
a rift. I believe in the weakness of my species,
the lure of our many malevolent -isms.
I won’t name them. For love of the name,
I learn instead all that I can of what grows
softly, without seeking praise.
O linden, lichen, mulberry underripe,
fragrant fisted peony. O flower medicinal,
emollient aloe, I call you by your name,
bismillah, O divine unseen whose name
I know, ism of isms, remain here,
invisible and I will call to you, crouched,
recognizing each green
by touch by name by sense unseen.

Sarah Ghazal Ali

Sarah Ghazal Ali is the author of Theophanies (Alice James Books, 2024), selected as the Editors' Choice for the 2022 Alice James Award. She is a Djanikian Scholar and winner of the 2022 Sewanee Review Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays appear in POETRY, American Poetry Review, Pleiades, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is an associate editor for West Branch and a Stadler Fellow in literary editing at Bucknell University.