Leslie Ray

Call to Prayer

Taroudannt, Morocco, September 1998

"Wake up and pray!"
"No time for sleep!"

Five o'clock in the morning,
the minaret's megaphone crackled into life.
Could these be the mysterious words
the muezzin wailed
from the watchtower of the faith
just a block away?

Shaken from sleep,
I listened
as, with a jazzman's dexterity,
he plucked the single-string tamboura
of his plica vocalis,
always returning to the drone note,
through labyrinthine byzantine designs,
to the drone note,
from amazing peaks and flourishes,
to the drone note.
Drained of divine meaning,
to this atheist
not looking to leap into faith,
Allah's clarion wake-up call became
an affirmation of life against death,
of enthusiasm against somnolence.
As I lay there in bed, insomniacked,
the improvised Word
from the beckoning beacon
still bell-ringing in my ears,
I knew I must answer.

As though compelled,
I got up to walk the streets;
in the ochre light of dawn
I felt the town's senses awakening,
bursting free from the chrysalis of sleep.