I knew the five pillars of Islam before I knew.

And when I knew the pillars, I knew the prayers.

And when I knew the prayers, I knew that        insha’Allah means if God wills,

       that God and Allah are the same though my Christian friends said otherwise,

       that when I asked for something and my dad said          insha’Allah habibti it meant no.

I knew the pillars and the prayers before I knew myself.

       At least one of the five may never know me—I’m no pilgrim.

And when I thought I knew myself, I never found Allah.

And when I thought I found Islam, it had no pillars.

And when I thought I found Allah, they had no gender.

       Allah was shaped like bare shoulders and lavender sheets—a lily reaching upwards.

       Allah was shag carpet and a crisp purple neon sign—DINER or Self-Service Liquor Mart.

       Allah was an entire aesthetics of pleasure.         Insha’Allah the parents will understand.

And when I found pleasure, it was the word chartreuse—

       peony and petrichor—a shock of my first lover’s curls dyed pink.

And when I found pleasure with my first lover they said           to Nietzsche, God is Dead

And when I found pleasure it was nature and artifice—

       it was Allah but also human hands.

And when I found pleasure, I started to become myself.

I asked my dad can Allah be man-made?

I asked my dad is Islam shaped like five pillars or like the sun that shines through them?

I asked my dad does Allah love me?

And when I asked my dad, my dad cried.

And when I asked my dad, my dad prayed         and said              Insha’Allah habibti insha’Allah.

Dana Alsamsam is a queer, Syrian-American poet from Chicago and an MFA candidate at Emerson College. She is assistant poetry editor at Redivider and editorial assistant at Ploughshares. Dana's chapbook (in)habit is forthcoming from tenderness, yea press and her poems are published or forthcoming in Poetry East, Hobart, DIALOGIST, The Collapsar, Blood Orange Review, Bad Pony Mag, Oxidant Engine, Cosmonauts Avenue, BOOTH and others.