Ramadan Day 3

Let’s begin by digesting a poem from Ruth Forman.

Haiku III

It only takes a phone call

to trip up my groove

just when i thought i could dance

This morning my exhaustion feels like it could overcome me.  I almost missed my alarm/s.  The tiredness of the short night and then waking up again to teach 10th graders 12 Angry Men in the morning seems almost preposterous.  Every night I tell myself that I will go to sleep early.  But I’ve been saying that for over two decades, and it’s never worked, because I enjoy the night.  And it’s dark outside while I’m writing.  So maybe I can trick myself into enjoying this too.

Last night, I went to a reading by writers who have experience as sex workers.  Each reader seemed to me to be fully formed, as if beyond writing, there is this place where we must live and connect our experiences.  Their lives were fraught with living in the place between the lines of freedom and expectation.  That’s probably true for all of us.  But during the reading:  I swear I saw a single guitar string, snapped loose, whipping about, curling into the air, then falling on the floor in defiance.

One reader said that she used to think shame was when she did something wrong.  (I’m paraphrasing.)  Then, she said it was also about the secrets we keep in our relationships.  I am very bad at keeping secrets, but I know I have them.  I am like a kangaroo who forgets she has a pouch.

Before the reading, I had an unexpected hour to kill.  I was tired and didn’t want to think about water.  I impulsively bought an umbrella and a tank top before I went to the reading.  I wanted air conditioning, and so I went shopping.  It seemed easier than entering the belly of the subway system.  I bought these items despite the fact that I technically did not need either.

If I had not been fasting, I think I would have not purchased either.  It felt odd – as if the only important thing was going to happen later in the evening, so why not spend time buying stuff?  It felt horrible to be spending money during Ramadan randomly.  Spending money makes me feel bad because I am not sure why I have it to spend and why other people do not.  It also made me realize how grateful I am to be able to buy things.  It also makes me think of all the things I cannot buy.

Perversely, it shames me that I did not grow up as my father did, really darn poor.  Which is probably why he once looked me in the eye and said, Do you know how hard your parents worked for this money?  It is nothing to be ashamed of.  He was ashamed that he did not have money when he was young, and I was lonely that he was working so hard to give me something he wanted when I wanted something more.  What is that thing?

I have been trying to figure it out.  I think about that feeling of THE phone call.  Whether it was the time I called my mother to let her know that her mother had died – the passage of life was still warm in my palms.  Was it the time my mother called and told me she had a tumor in her brain?  I was driving and was in a minor scrape in ten minutes or less off the 110 in Los Angeles.  (She’s fine now.  It’s benign and lives like a rock, unmoving, not bad, as tumors go.)  Or, the time that my dad got the call saying that he wasn’t going to get his surgery, the cancer was too far gone?  I saw his shoulders sag as his life crawled away him.  We don’t even know if he made it to the other shore.

I think about the little calls.  The ones where the person you think you love most calls you to tell you that they don’t think the two of you are going to make it, or they don’t want to make it, or they don’t love you, or they are having a meltdown and they need some space (from you).  You could swim for hours, days, months, years, and still not make it to the lighthouse.

I think about what it means to get the call that you are not going to get the job.  I think about what it means to get the call that you need to make a payment, immediately.  What about the call that they are going to shut off your cell phone?  Doesn’t your phone need to work for that call?

What about the calls from your friends, the ones where you weren’t there to receive them?  So they cried themselves to sleep.  Or the ones where you were there, and you wished that you could say something, anything, so they wouldn’t cry themselves to sleep.

What about the phone calls that feel like the sky opened up and dropped a glass onto the floor?  You are the glass.

After the reading, people are milling about.  I go outside.  Two friends of Don Eletreby’s are sitting on the bench.  They are queer and Muslim.  The Don tells them he is fasting, and that he and I cannot go to eat because of this.  One woman’s eyes sharpen.  She examines me, looking around the edges of my brain because for once my appearance is utterly stoic, keeping in all its expressions of identity.

Are you Muslim?  I tell her no, I cannot say I identify this way.  I want to tell her yes, but it’s complicated.  She then asks the better question:  Why do you fast?

I think about Rumi and how he said there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.  I think about a long-winded story about my past.  My answer came without thought or consideration.  It just arrived.  I said, I fast because I love it.

There was that call

i fasted that very first day

just like that


it was like


had picked up the phone

even though

i was crying so hard

i’ve no recollection of

who it was

i was trying to call

or who was calling





In the Mirror Too Long

By Ruth Forman


ever since i was small

you say

“don let me catch you

in the mirror too long

you know God don like vain”

but Mamma

um 22 now n

still nobody say

pretty look like


n Mamma

if i don

look in the mirror

once in a while

n tell me

um beautiful

i waste

my whole life

searchin the city over

for somebody

who will


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