Ramadan Day 27



These lines are from the final entry of Fasting for Ramadan by Kazim Ali.


A book is a guide.  You wouldn’t say “only a guide”

Because its influence is much bigger, bigger than the

universe as a guide—a huge golden arrow pointing

out into space, the way the golden arrows embedded

on the ceilings of hotels in the Muslim world point in

the direction of the qibla.


The rose is my qibla, wrote Sohrab Sepheri. All the

Heavens were a Bell—and Being but an Ear, wrote

Emily Dickinson.


The book and the fasting body both are guides. The

body too can think. After all perhaps the mind is

only the bard of the body, one of its constituent parts.


And the “self,” the thing we call “I,” floats across the

surface of the mind like petals on a pond.


Each white fasting day trickles through the ghost-

house of a month from darkness and absence to the

full moon, and then wanes and wanes to the end.


Shape of the month’s empty hallways, the shape of

a fast in inverse. So each day is the opposite: one by

one, one passes through.


And once the month is over you do what you do.


How do you hold it in your hand? The month grows

full and then recedes. Re-seeds.


A month that is a petal floating in the cup of the year,

which like a life lives in days, circular time, like a season

or a year that goes in one direction but promises to





Ramadan, I miss you.


Today a friend walks through the door and smiles at me, radiant.  She sings a song using my name.  She tells me she is hungry.  She is delighted to be with me because she says, We are both fasting.  When she sees a coffee in my hand, she is disappointed.  She says, I was looking forward to seeing you.  I wanted to be in solidarity.  It is hard today to be around people eating.

I understand, I say, I will not be eating in front of you.

I am fasting too.

Every single thing I am doing today is with mindfulness and intent.

I am whole-hearted.

I am here.


This same friend has told me she missed my Ramadan posts.  A few friends have mentioned this enjoyment of my writing.  I have missed them too.


I have been unhappy.


I punish myself for not being happy.


I would like to be happy.


She said, You made this mistake and these choices because it will prepare you for love.

Once I felt such anguish and loathing to hear that all my mistakes, all the happenings of my life, were merely a preparation.  That’s not true, I argued.  My life is happening now, and isn’t what I do the real thing?  Doesn’t it count?  Don’t I already have love in my life?  Yes, she said.

Everything I do is in preparation for love.

Upon my return from Barcelona, I discovered that I could not return to fasting the very next day.  I was embarrassed that I was not fasting.  In a writing class last semester, the professor mentioned that lists are often used in great writing (paraphrased and reinterpreted.)


Here is my powerlessness:


I was hurt and angry that so much of what I felt during that time was difficult, and my vacation was not supposed to be difficult.

I tried to write and could not concentrate.

I did not fast.

I did not find the mosque in Cordoba.

I did not find a mosque in Barcelona.

I spoke ill of another person because I needed to feel better about myself.

I felt excluded and hated and small.

I was defensive.

I did not let go fast enough.

I trusted people without being realistic about their capacity.

I was not prepared for what happened.

I allowed myself to engage and fight.

I didn’t respect myself.

The mosquitoes ate me without my permission.

My addiction came back.

I was stressed out.

I felt unhappiness.


Here is my power:


I read three books.

I showed courage.

I acted with dignity in the face of hostility.

I gave my silence when I could have given barbs.

After I refused a fistfight, I refused to fight at all.

I used my body to protect a friend when we were confronted by robber barons.

I navigated a strange city alone under foreign circumstances.

The strange city navigated me.

I was inspired by the art of Miro, Tapies, Picasso, Pasolini, Baudelaire (Eric), and Gaudi.

I saw Profesor Lazhar by moonlight in a castle courtyard.

I drank beers with a Colombian bicycle activist

I asked my friends for help.  Both in Barcelona and a continent away, they helped me.

I learned the term vulnerability hangover.

Some friends continued to fast.

Some friends stopped and took care of themselves in other ways.

A poet wrote love letters to Kazim Ali that felt like love letters to me.

My sister sent me a video of my nephew drawing me (with a long neck).

My brother made sure I was alive.

My mother told me she missed me.

I jotted notes in my journal.

It was very hot in Cordoba.

I didn’t say too much.

I told the truth.

I felt love.

I know myself better than I did before I left.


But I was not happy.  Therefore, I internalize this difficulty I have experienced.  It is my failure.  It is mine.  If I do not find my self-worth soon, then how can I fast?


The only person/thing I can control is my self.

I would rather blame myself for the storm than feel helpless again.

That is how I felt as a child.


When we consider ourselves adults, we feel anguish at the thought that we are experiencing the same as we did when we were children.


I would rather hurt myself

than watch you

hurt yourself

To not be able to rescue you

To not be able to help you


I would rather not

remember that

To hurt you

To stop you

from hurting me

I hurt myself


Yesterday I was a bad person.


Today I am an apology.


Tomorrow I will be at peace.


My mother said to me once that she felt so sad for the people of Palestine.  Why? I asked her.  Think about how hopeless you have to be Serena, to take your own life and that of others.


I am still thinking about what she said.


It is another day.  I could have fasted this morning, but I chose not to because I wanted my emotional energy for something else, something that felt important.  A conversation with myself needs to take place.

I am not right with myself.  I am seeing myself with such cynicism and depression after returning from my journey.  I would like to honor Allah with a better me.  I am tired of failing.

In the exact moment I have this thought my friend reads me a line from Kazim Ali:


Of course I always fail at anything important. It

feels essential that I fail. And so must release what-

ever I have enslaved; held captive.


What if I let go of the desire to fail and allowed

myself to come to fruition?


Fruition with twelve days yet to fast?


What happens after I cease failing?




The last time I was not at peace with myself, I contemplated leaving my own life like an abandoned tire rim on the side of the road.

In Los Angeles, I drove by and ignored what was not on the road.

I caused pain.

I cannot accept this brutality inside of me.

I tell myself I am not that same person.

I am angry.


In the sunlight, I put one foot in front of the other and ignore the scabs on the pavement.  I’ve always wanted a different neck — the kind that concaves where it meets the shoulders.  That neck forms a hollow.

I look at my reflection in a coffee house window.  How unusual my neck appears.  How beautiful.  It curves like a swan.  It is shaped like a question mark.


I am a visitor today to a house of sorrows, and it is good to be a visitor because I know I do not have to stay.  My jaw feels tight as I attempt to write this entry.  This and my hands ache.  My pain.


Tomorrow, I can fast again.


How militant and hard we can be at the beginnings of our journey.  And like the outstretched stone upon which the ocean performs its battery – we are softened, softer, softened,




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