Ramadan Day 2 – Generous

Sunday

by Ruth Forman

if i could i would

give you a mirror how i see you

n watch you smile

 

VONA Readers at The Sackett Reading Series –

Organized by Bridgett Davis and presented by Bold As Love Magazine to celebrate VONA and Dismantle

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Left to Right (Dennis Norris II, LeConte Dill, Anna Saini, Tracy M. King-Sanchez, and me) (Not pictured: Bahar Mirhosseini)

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(annnnnd, here’s Bahar!)

 

Yesterday/today I was so inundated by grading, prepping for a reading celebrating VONA at the Sackett Bar, and keeping the hours of my fast that I told myself I would simply write tomorrow.  I made this decision despite the fact that Day 2 of fasting was simple and gentle.  It felt as if I floated effortlessly through the day.  A lark.

Around midnight, I went outside and admired what my friend Dinah referred to as a thumbnail moon.  It was so beautiful, its pale yellow lining.  Then, I realized it was actually a sliver of somebody’s window light in the nighttime.  Obscured by branches.  Dinah is a poet and has a gift for sound which means that I am now paying attention to sound.  This is called learning.  When I’m wandering in my mind, Dinah will reel me in by reciting poetry.  The past couple weeks, she’s played Kay Ryan’s “The Pharaohs” for me on demand.

So this happened:

Up high, I glimpse wink of moon
blink blink, these sleepy-eyes
a window lamp spills its light

***

On the Q train yesterday, the light on the water danced, and even the carousel horses looked happy.

I turned to Dinah and said, Is it just me or is it extraordinarily beautiful?  She confirmed this to be true.

Today, walking from Atlantic-Barclays to Prospect Heights after the reading, the breeze whiffling, I turned to Dinah and said, Is it just me or is today absolutely perfect?  Could the weather be any better?  Or, did I imagine yesterday and today?  And Dinah said, yes, I can verify this.  You didn’t imagine it.

What is it that we think we know?

Fasting is a time when you are able to receive the generosity of others. The smoothness of my fast yesterday was made bearable by generosity:

I called a friend in the Bay around midnight yesterday and said that I could not choose what to read from my Ramadan journal.  She took time out of her day to read the entire journal from last year.  She suggested three passages and told me what she appreciated about them.  Without her, I could not have culled together a reading.

My dear friend and roommate has worked twelve hour days, six days a week, for the past month.  On her one day to run errands and breathe, she took out her entire afternoon to spend at our reading.  When I turned to her at the beginning of the reading, she said — No, no don’t tell me.  I want to be surprised!  After the reading she said — I really wanted you to read from your journal.  That was great.  Her words filtered through the window like sunlight.

A third friend and I have had some difficulty in our relationship of late.  She showed up at my reading with kindness and a warm hug.  It touched me.  A friend who appears during the hard times is staring you in they eye as they embrace you.  Their arms around you say, I love you.

They are also testifying to faith.

Five days ago I slumped over speaking such gibberish.  Most of it involved this sinkhole theory of life.  This theory implies that walking around, even existing, is a dangerous condition.  Of course, I heard a brother say, when you fast none of this will matter.  Allah will provide what you need to continue this fast.

Saima told me that I could do it, despite my loneliness.  I don’t want to fast alone!  I complained.  She made a schedule with me.  She discussed the Qu’ran and sexuality.  The Doctor has cured me.  The Doctor is a whisper in my heart that says (since I’ve known her) — Call Saima before Ramadan!

The moment you begin your fast it’s as if you have opened a stream.  Suddenly, all the people in your life are no longer disparate pebbles, they are a part of the unity.  They participate in what the water does.

I know a writer with a green thumb.  She’s even complained that she can’t help but grow plants — they become of a size that is nearly unmanageable.  Everything she puts a hand to flourishes.  She knows this is her secret power.  I called her before my reading and mentioned that I didn’t know how I would teach for nearly seven hours today/tomorrow.

Bakhlava! she said.

On the way home, 11 steps down into the Metro, I was able to say to my friend that I return home every year, around this time, because my father passed away on ____________.

There is a power in acknowledging when one is not ready.

Like all the years before, my mother has consistently let me know how much she does NOT want me to fast.  She is worried about dehydration.  Really worried.  This year, responding to yesterday’s post, she wrote:  Take care, drink lots of water when you can.  mom.

 

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(Dennis gets his own pic because when I saw his shorts, I fell apart with pride.)  Clothing usually doesn’t evoke this much emotion.

When I was a reading, some noise from the street reared up in the middle.  Maybe it was a truck of some kind?

I pressed myself against the window and thinking that I was so close to her.  Also, she’s glowing.

“You are able to win cases because when you get up and speak the jury and the judge see your personal power.” — an ex-girlfriend.

I am reminded of skipping rocks and cheering for that second landing.

My friend couldn’t have known it at the time, but by encouraging me to shift my thinking about my diet (carnivore to questioning), I’ve found a remarkable food that is practically sacrilegious for me to eat.  Except it is a holy time.  And they only take 5 minutes to prepare.  Feel free to contact me for the recipe if you are fasting and would like to eat this too.  The Chia seeds actually seem to release energy throughout the day.

 

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(Thanks Caitlin – I dressed this shot!)

Plus, another friend/poet, upon hearing that I fast for Ramadan, gave me her fish tacos.

One of the greatest compliments I received at the reading was that my journal was a fusion of poetry and prose.  “You’ve covered so much ground in your writing.”

Thank you to VONA.  Through VONA, I first believed I deserved to write.

In Ramadan as in Poetry — the transportation at the end of the line or between lines

a people-mover of the greatest technology.

In Ramadan as in Poetry — Beam Me Up

scotty!

In Ramadan as in Poetry — the gift is

given.

***

Hush, I have a secret to tell you.  Those of you who best relinquish your secrets are the true artists.  As it is in life, so it is in poetry.

One golden moment in the Sun.

 

Ramadan 2014 – Day 1 – A Prayer from the Back

Last year’s fast started off more easily than this year’s. I kept a journal immediately after the fast began for the day, to see how I would write.  In 2013, I explored and explained my relationship with Islam, my queerness, my colors:  https://drunkenwhispers.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/day-1-ramadan-2013-2/

What shall I do this year?

Day 1 of Ramadan 2014 was headache and bad decisions from the night before, carried into fasting like trash bags to a pristine stream.

I wrote many of 2013’s posts about Forgiveness – oh that last year! Perhaps it made it easier to (nearly) reach into the popcorn bowl and to (almost) lick the salt off my fingers, to (just about) forgive myself. Disaster averted.

At four in the afternoon, I was slumped over next to a poet at a Manhattan coffee shop, super afraid that I was drooling on the coffee table.  I would lose precious water from my body.

I could not write. But I promised myself that I would.

The first day of the fast is the most difficult. This is what we write to each other – one of us in Jordan and myself.

What is the difference between one who fasts and one who is a Muslim? This point may be of no concern to anyone, other than myself. To convert to Islam, you must say the words of the prophet. Specific words. I cannot say them.

I have a LA friend who always asked me to join her in prayer. When we went to the mosque and to the night of power, she showed me how to pray. Surrounded by the rows of women, kneeling and prostrating myself, felt significant.

***

This year when her forehead touches the ground, I am next to her.

***

I met with a leader in the Muslim community today, a man.  He did not start fasting today because the moon had not been sighted.  He reacted with great alarm when I said I’m not a Muslim nor am I not-not a Muslim.  I confessed I had prayed before among Muslims.  He said that I shouldn’t pray where I did among Muslims.  I would be coming between those who are Muslim.  It’s about the community of Muslims — he said — that they should workshop together.  It made sense.  I also felt unwelcome.

So this afternoon he went to the Imam and asked him, on my behalf, how should one who has not recited Shahada pray with you? To the edges and in the back, the Imam said. I do not trust him to answer me honestly because he is a great man.  He has a weakness for which I do not judge him.  That is his passion for the truth.

***

The truth in religion is like the curve of light from a train. The train moves forward, stunning us, as it comes into the light. Where has the light gone?

***

Who shall say who is Muslim? How does my friend know that I do not have a relationship with Allah, with the Prophet Muhammad? He does not. Allah has spoken, but who shall interpret his words? It gets tricky when you are in disagreement with some interpretations, but not others!  I don’t wish to frivolously cast aside some aspects of a faith I respect.  But membership is about choice.

***

My friend, I will convert by saying Shahada, the words, the day I reconcile the patriarchy, homophobia, and general control of my life with men. Or, the day that Allah comes into my heart and says that I must. Until then, I am happy with the relationship that I have.

This will not be my first fast for Ramadan. I am six years beyond that, but this may be one of my most difficult fasts because it is long. Also, because Mercury Retrograde is here.  We all seem to be living in the past.  It’s as if our minds cannot conjure the leap of faith it takes to move into the future.  We have real problems that have come back to us, whether or not we like it.

This Ramadan summons the old question of conversion. A question that came to me once before when I first realized that I would observe Ramadan with or without the support of community, and yes, the confines, of community.

 

***

I am told to go to the back to pray.

 

Allah can still hear me.

 

Where I am.

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