Ramadan Day 11

– For my Father too



By Tracy K. Smith


                                             –  In memoriam, Floyd William Smith 1935-2008


I didn’t want to wait on my knees

In a room made quiet by waiting.


A room where we’d listen for the rise

Of breath, the burble in his throat.


I didn’t want the orchids or the trays

Of food meant to fortify that silence,


Or to pray for him to stay or to go then

Finally toward that ecstatic light.


I didn’t want to believe

What we believe in those rooms:


That we are blessed, letting go,

Letting someone, anyone,


Drag open the drapes and heave us

Back into our blinding, bright lives.





Hafiz said to me, The Subject Tonight is Love.  He screamed this into both my ears as I was sleeping.  I startled out of bed like a child in a fire drill.

He rolls around the bed laughing, tells me that he knows of plenty of other ways to make writing at 3 in the morning, so much fun.


Three weeks ago I turned to my brother and asked him, do you remember what we did when we went home from the hospital, after dad died?


I wanted to share a poem that is very special to me.  I speak it only for special occasions.


It was first given to me by a woman who loved me so fiercely, with so much joy and such inexplicable divinity, that her shape is burned into my palm.  She vanished the rest of herself in smoke.  That year, I did too.  Through her, Allah first appeared.


Will I spend the rest of my days scanning the sky, looking for traces of what survived?


I knew instantly this poem was about the two of us.  She said, this is not a poem about romantic love.  What is it a poem about?


I looked into Allah’s eyes in Rumi’s Field and played between the ghosts that Maxine Hong Kingston once summoned.


The first poem I ever memorized was a Chinese poem by Li Bai.

No matter how far apart we are, it is the same moon.

I don’t know the words, only the rise and fall of its sound.


I read this poem the O’Husain’s dholki this poem bloomed again because she and Saifan did not forget to water the verses, even though I was too busy.  Did you know that poems die if you do not take them out and talk to them, water them, give them light?  I didn’t.


Yesterday the world stretched its beautiful hands out to the Don, and he felt it.  I watched his eyes fill with poetry.


A wise man told me today that he was not surprised I enjoy Ramadan – I have never lived a life without overcoming, without oppositional force.  I have never just been happy.


For all the times I sighed with relief that my heart was broken because it meant that I had healed, and then cried myself to sleep and was too tired to dream, and then cried in the shower, and then went about my day.


For all the times I was angry because I still am, angry.


For the joy and fear of wanting to read this poem to you before you disappear in the rain.


For the appearance of an umbrella when you need it most.


For taking hold of the curve even though you are already soaked through.


For my friends who do not know where they are but write to me from there.


When I was a child I wanted to die because the whole world hurt my eyes.  The only thing that saved me was that I refused to leave my family behind.

I shout to God.


For the kindness of strangers and friends, and those who were both, when I was knocked onto a new path by shame, by depression, by disaster.


For all the times I could not forgive until someone showed me compassion.


For all the times I failed, and you took my hand.


We looked up at the stars.


In joy.



The Truelove

By David Whyte


There is a faith in loving fiercely

the one who is rightfully yours

especially if you have

waited years and especially

if part of you never believed

you could deserve this

loved and beckoning hand

held out to you this way.


I am thinking of faith now

and the testaments of loneliness

and what we feel we are

worthy of in this world.


Years ago in the Hebrides

I remember an old man

who walked every morning

on the grey stones

to the shore of baying seals


who would press his hat

to his chest in the blustering

salt wind and say his prayer

to the turbulent Jesus

hidden in the water


and I think of the story

of the storm and everyone

waking and seeing

the distant

yet familiar figure

far across the water

calling to them


and how we are all

preparing for that

abrupt waking,

and that calling,

and that moment

we have to say yes,

except it will

not come so grandly

so Biblically

but more subtly

and intimately in the face

of the one you know

you have to love


so that when

we finally step out of the boat

toward them, we find

everything holds

us, and everything confirms

our courage, and if you wanted

to drown you could,

but you don’t

because finally

after all this struggle

and all these years

you don’t want to any more

you’ve simply had enough

of drowning

and you want to live and you

want to love and you will

walk across any territory

and any darkness

however fluid and however

dangerous to take the

one hand you know

belongs in yours.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Ramadan Day 29 – Is This The End, My Beautiful Friend? | Drunken Whispers

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