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Unterberg Poetry Center

I traveled to the Sufi shrine at Ajmer
not as a pilgrim but a tourist.
Waiting among the throng
of men pressed one to another,
I held a basket of flowers.
I felt awkward, infidel, an imposter.

I could smell each man, the musks
of sweat and devotion.  One moved
his lips in prayer, teeth stained yellow,
saliva caught in the corners of his mouth,
tears on the red rims of his eyelids.

On some unheard command,
as one body we surged forward.
I scattered the flowers on the tomb.
The imam covered my head and his
with a cloth and whispered blessings
from the Qur’an, his warm breath
anointing my neck in the dark.

Don Hogle is a poet, blogger and brand strategist living in Manhattan.  His poems have recently appeared in Mud Season Review, Minetta Review, Shooter, Blast Furnace, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and New Verse News, and were finalists in the 2015 Northern Colorado Writers Poetry Contest and the 2015 Aesthetica Creative Writing Contest.