Ramadan Day 17 – Sgt. Lonely’s Queer Club Band

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(Photos and Collage of Brick City Speaks! by Bryanna Tidmarsh)

 

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Poet joke #1: How do poets say hello?

Answer: Hey, haven’t we metaphor?

 

On the PATH train platform at World Trade Center today, humming, on track to be early to work, the word unregenerate flashed up on the screen.

 

Unregenerate: not reforming or showing repentance; obstinately wrong or bad.

 

In the darkened room, hushed in heat and awe, as an audience member in Santa Ana, California, I listened to Cherríe Moraga and Adelina Anthony, and crew give a talk-back after Digging Up the Dirt, one of Cherríe’s play. I think about those kids that knew they were queer. I don’t mean this about only your sexual orientation, but that you were really, truly queer at a very young age.

 

A small kid in the back of the room raises her hand. She looks just like me.

 

She knew she was special.

 

 

Poet joke #2: What has 14 lines and upholds the current race and gender hierarchy?

Answer: A patriarchal sonnet!

by Dinah Fay

 

 

Thanks to Fast Brain (yes, ironically, slow brain), I did the unthinkable today. I missed an important obligation by half an hour, letting down an entire group of people. I’m too embarrassed to go into further detail. I failed, and that’s the best that can be said about the situation.

 

A half hour later, I received a phone call telling me that a job I really want could be mine.

 

Two hours after that, I was on the internet reading poet Safia Jama’s blog, laughing and constructing what I hoped would be a brief, but fitting tribute to her for a poetry reading I was co-hosting with Dinah for Brick City Speaks! in Newark.

 

Four hours and change, I was desperately trying to remember the given names of people I’ve known for the past year on the microphone. Hold your fast, a voice said. My hand trembled, but I did. In walked Anisa, a writer and friend who I’ve only recently met, who had said she’d be present and also that she would keep me company while I broke my fast. As I downed a smoothie that reminds me of the Don, I met Anisa’s eyes, and Dinah’s to the left of me, I felt a surge of love that lifted me.

 

There is a common wisdom about fasting for Ramadan. When you are fasting, what matters is only what is truly important. You don’t have the energy to care about anything else.

 

What was I doing while breaking this commitment? I was being consoled by T, a dear friend, teacher, and mentor. T said the following as I poured out my heart about the mistakes I’ve made lately:

 

Your best quality and your worst qualities are the same, you know? You’re the kind of person who’s been an activist your whole life. You love helping and being around oppressed peoples. But that also means that you are attracted to oppressed people, people who are suffering and have problems. But that’s not good for your love life.

 

All these years I’ve been falling in love with my broken self, in the hopes that I could heal her. I’m a walking cliché, a living testament to the fact that you can accomplish so much, even in your own small way you can make a difference, help people, be capable, competent, compassionate, and not believe that you are worthy of acceptance or love. You can become the very person that inspired you to change the world: the person who rejected you.

 

Self-sabotage is not a path forward.

 

I am not alone. Many writers come from this place. My place. The place of the outsider. A person who rejects community and belonging because she’s never even belonged to herself. So forgive me, Allah, because I can’t stop extending my heart to my unregenerate soul.

 

T, I said, I don’t know how to let them go?

I don’t want to hurt them. I want them to feel loved.

Let them go in the way that is most loving to you, T said.

 

 

 

Poet joke #3: What do you call a high heel with one stressed and one unstressed syllable?

Answer: An iambic foot.

by Dinah Fay

 

 

 

The other day I wrote a post about hesitating to join a Qur’an study group. Within eight hours, a friend from the group wrote me a message stating that they had seen my blog, and they wanted me to know that I was welcome and invited to the group – that they hoped I would come.

 

An ex of mine once said, a soul mate (not banned from poetic use after all) once told me as she broke up with me, and before she married a man and had her first baby and then let me know that she’d never stopped loving me: you know what I hate most about you. You are so fucking loved. You are spoiled, and it’s annoying, because all you’ve ever been is surrounded by love. And I don’t have that. And I love this about you too.

 

Outside of the reading as the rain sizzled onto the pavement, and Bry held aloft a floral parasol and Melissa and I compared notes on how hard it is to find good pants in butch fashion, and Dana breezed in I proceeded to finish the final heel of a bad sentence. It runs along the lines that I don’t like to be vulnerable enough.

 

“That’s fucking bull-shit,” Melissa said, exhaling in a protective puff. “What the fuck?”

“Obviously, they don’t know you,” Dana said. “You’re basically one big broken heart. That’s not even a real statement.”

“I remember the first time we were in a class together,” Bry said, “and the first thing you said was about your insecurity. You were totally insecure.”

 

Poets

Meanwhile, one arm wet from the rain

my heart sang.

 

You just love being loved — my friend Sandra said recently as she scooped out a delicious spoonful of eggplant and bell peppers that she had made for dinner.  (Mind you, she’d made it for out of town guests, said I could come over and eat, and yeah most of it ended up in my gullet!)

 

And in the morning, on the PATH platform, before the concrete cut off the signal, I read Cleo’s message telling me that the bad day would get better. I believed her. I’ve never stopped believing her since that second time she got me off the kitchen floor.

 

The Doctor once said – has it ever occurred to you that you should have relationships and let yourself become vulnerable to people because you will need people in the times you struggle?

 

What am I protecting?

 

The first time I studied the Enneagram, I was asked to choose which was the stronger urge: to be strong or to be perfect. Please, I thought, let me be strong enough to survive trying to be perfect.

 

When I was in law school my first year, before I woke up from a daze, and a sun set behind my eyes, and I had this queer vision and led a delegation to Michigan because, as I told everybody, we’re fighting for affirmative action, and I think that this case, this situation, is going to be the one that decides this issue for us. (See Grutter v. Bollinger – didn’t exactly change the game, but it was a step in the right, as opposed to wrong, direction.)

To this day, a part of me believes that it is our lived experience that changes us most.

 

When – there is no when – before I ever felt I deserved to write, I was with a friend (Mustafa), and I was crying, and I said, Please don’t ever tell people this because it’s going to sound crazy, but I had this dream of becoming a writer, but then I just felt that God wanted me to use my creativity for something else. And I just keep asking for that to change because it feels like my heart is breaking.  But I can’t stop.

 

I didn’t save myself then. What makes me think I’m going to do it now?

 

Yet every word is richer for listening to that voice that could have been a demon, but also could have been Allah.

 

Sometimes, we don’t see much in our hazes. Everything is quiet.

You just want to be loved.

 

A friendly acquaintance I know asked me how I was doing today, on the steps of a building in Newark. I started to spin my tale of woe. She said, You need to stop. Just stop. Stop looking for love. I figure it’s a 50-50 chance, but looking doesn’t affect your chances. It’s one of those things you can’t control. You’ll only find it if you stop looking. Stop looking. It will only hurt you.

 

 

 

Poet Joke #4: What do you call two British men trapped between the pages?

Answer: A chap book.

(By Dinah Fay)

 

 

 

So you understand that this is a love story right?

 

What it was like to be up there tonight, fasting, having messed up most of the day, totally emo, yet still trading jokes with Dinah as a co-host.  She was present even though she had a day more difficult than most – the sheer genius of her jokes, all of which she’d been smart enough to write herself, while mine were from the Internet.

 

What it was like the first three times I fell in love, and then started realizing that every single day I’ve written in this Ramadan journal, another person (often a different person) has written me a note of appreciation or encouragement or love.

 

What a relief it was that words poured out.

 

What it was like to say in a night of prayer at the Mosque in the OC to Saimo and her mother that I wanted a prayer rug. To receive a prayer rug as an Eid present from the O’Husain’s.

 

What people don’t know about you, Debbie always said, is your incredible faith.

 

What it’s like to be so hurt by people that you don’t even care about yourself, and then climb up that mountain and look down. How you still love them as much as you did the first time your heart jumped.

 

What it’s like to forgive when you know there is absolutely no way, no human way, that you could ever forgive that.

 

And if I’m only one single queer heart out there in the Universe

then why is it that I look up

and see all these stars?

 

This is love.

 

 

 

***

Didn’t drop the secret

Then

No use dropping it now

 

Yes Poet

I dreamed you

 

All these songs

And not one to go home with

 

*Words remembered (loosely) from a reading of Shorty Bon Bon by Willie Perdomo

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

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

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