Ramadan Day 10



The violin

Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying

About the future

You will become

Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God

Will then lean down

And start combing you into



When the violin can forgive

Every wound caused by


The heart starts


Hafiz, trans. by Daniel Ladinsky



What is the difference between a poet and an Imam?


What is the difference between looking outside and looking within?


What is the difference between isolation and solitude?

This morning I wish to be in conversation with several people.  For one — my mother keeps asking me if Ramadan is over because she does not like that I observe it.  She thinks that it is unhealthy.  I can understand her perspective, but I don’t share it.  Every year, it is the same.  If I tell her about it directly, usually between day five and day seven, she asks me if it’s over.  This year she sent me an e-mail saying she is so glad it’s over.  That was yesterday.  I love my mom, and I can say without irony that this is a sign she cares about me.

For two – I was lucky enough to break/open my fast again with the Don.  As such treats often are, it was a last minute thing after we both had other plans fall away.  The Don told me a story about how his courageous act of coming out inspired another young man to do so as well.  As he looked into my eyes with so much humility and gratitude toward this person for reaching out to him, I realized that between us lay the painful acknowledgment of our own fears.  We cast our eyes down out of respect for our families when they have not respected us.  When we love one another, we create mirrors.  We give up our shame when we see the courage of our reflection looking into our eyes.

I have been strangling in the vines of my own anger.  Fortunately, it is Ramadan, and I am quieter than usual.  I don’t want to startle the birds.

The Don tells me to look for a sign.

I thumb through my day backward.  My sister, drawing on an inside joke, and telling me to flip a coin to make a tough decision.  A difficult conversation resulting in a difficult truth.  Sitting in the library reviewing books on Muslims and Spain when I should have been writing a short story.  Hmmm…what sign?

Immediately, we start discussing a blog.  The title of this reflection was The Worst Ramadan Ever.


It must be a sign!  After all, I had been reading this post earlier in the day.  I was so happy to be reminded of it.  I vowed that I would write about connecting to people.

Instead, a friend calls me and in the course of the conversation acknowledges his own isolation.  This is my language, not his.  When he says it, I immediately think what can I do to help?  I wish I could live my whole life with that being the first thought.  But, usually, it’s how do I get out of here?

Ramadan deepens my empathy.  We are, all of us, so lonely.  We tell ourselves that we are being strong by not bothering people with our problems, or because we are taking care of it ourselves, or because nobody needs to know.  We let our image of who we want to be obscure the truth about who we are.

We do not reach out to people for various reasons.  Here are some of my favorite ones (circle all that apply):

–       I am too busy.

–       They are too busy.

–       They will tell me their problems.

–       They won’t listen to mine.

–       They won’t get real with me.

–       They have other friends.

–       I am too tired to listen.

–       I am too angry to listen.

–       I am too sad to listen.

–       I’ll call later.

–       I’ve got some problems.


If you circled even one, do not pass go, and do not skip to the end of this blog.

If you circled none, skip ahead to enlightenment.

My favorite thing about this list is that its components are not permanent conditions.  They are mutable, which means that we have to also acknowledge them.

We are not perfect — our conversations may veer.  That is ok.  With calling, like anything else.  Don’t be afraid to stop or start.  Don’t wait for perfection.  Merely by making ourselves available for a moment to someone dear to us, or even a stranger.  Checking-in.  Asking how someone is doing.  Or, even doing nothing (in a manner) but sending love in your prayer.  The intent is felt.

How is it that an activity that transports me to a place inside myself improves my life outside of it?

I am less lonely when I know how to listen.

I am more and more reluctant to give my sorrow, my pain to anybody else, especially if I have not yet given it to myself.

I carry these difficult fish in bucket after bucket to Allah who returns them to me as tears.

The Don is right.  I can’t wait to see the signs.  First, I am going to close my eyes, and kneel.



Night, for Henry Dumas

By Aracelis Girmay

Henry Dumas, 1934-1968

did not die by a spaceship

or flying saucer or outer space at all

but was shot down, at 33,

by a New York City Transit policeman

will be shot down, May 23rd,

coming home, in just 6 days, by a New York City Transit


in the subway station singing & thinking of a poem,

what he’s about to eat, will be, was, is right now

shot down, this sad conjugation,

happening yesterday, happened tomorrow,

will happen now

under the ground & above the ground

at Lenox & 125th in Harlem, Tennessee,

Memphis, New York, Watts, Queens.

1157 Wheeler Avenue, San Quentin, above which

sky swings down a giant rope, says

Climb me into heaven, or follow me home,

& Henry

& Amadou

& Malcolm

& Oscar

& Sean

& King,

& the night hangs over the men & their faces,

& the night grows thick above the streets,

I swear it is more blue, more black, tonight

with the men going up there.

Bring the children out

to see who their uncles are.


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