Ramadan Day One – 2015 – Brain Wreck


“Choose the thing that makes you feel most free.”

– Anonymous painter

“I’m not setting goals.

I’m setting intentions.”

– Overheard, anonymous phone conversation

Ramadan has not yet slowed me down, here in Nebraska City. It is thunder and chill and grey after days of humidity and heat. It feels empty here, as if I’m in a bathtub, floating through space. There’s a wildlife center I haven’t yet visited. I hear the taxidermy is exquisite.

Not one public arts program in the City – no music, crafts, poetry classes in the schools. “My friend’s kid, she doesn’t even know how to hold a brush.”

I am nothing, only a pen behind a wall. Allah should hold me in a real city, where I can do some real damage.

I am a mini-pen, so in the right place maybe.

I wonder how it feels in Charleston, what the weather is like, when a terrorist bathes our holy day in blood. He loves our Black people. He draws our outlines, so we know our bodies’ shape. When we were invisible, some of us hid what we had become. One day, the rain came, and the outlines began to fade, like chalk.

“I do not care for Sun today,” I say, waving away my mother when she tries to wake me up, “I prefer to stay in the dark, where I can memorize the shapes, for my revenge.”

In America, white people take everything.

As I fall asleep, I ask Allah for the real words, the ones that would help me find my way. But I woke up dreaming about finding the right combination for a bathroom code for my boss.

Yesterday, I was taken off a waitlist for a writing fellowship for a summer fiction intensive. I’d felt so rejected months ago. It would be stupid to turn down the opportunity, but it would also interfere with this fast. It would interfere with seeing and helping friends and loved ones after traveling for a month.

And, could I justify five days away from this silly blog?

My heart sank when Saimo said she would be breaking the fast by going to a somatics retreat. Saimo does everything right.

“I never thought of that, but you’re right, I’d probably need to break my fast to take full advantage of the workshop experience.  I’ve never deliberately broken my fast before because I wanted something else, only because I got scared and desperate.” – me

“You’re going to somatics to be connected to yourself. I would be going to advance myself, my career, not my spiritual being, not my actual writing, but my profession. That’s an earthly thing, and I’m reminding myself of poverty.” – me

“Also, people will be talking to me, nonstop. They don’t talk a lot during somatics, do they?” – me

Saimo is very wise, especially when she is telling you what to do.

I called the Don, having made my decision. He leaves for VONA tomorrow, where he will keep the fast. I told him that I have something new, a surprise for my Ramadan blog, but I’m tired today.  I guess Allah is kicking in after all

Will you fast with me until tomorrow?

When the pain is gone,

When all is clear.


No será nuestra vida un túnel

Entre dos vagas claridades?

O no será una claridad

Entre dos triangulos oscuros

O no será la vida un pez

Preparado para ser pájaro

La muerte será de no ser

O de sustancias peligrosas

-Pablo Neruda, from The Book of Questions, XXXV

Will our life not be a tunnel

Between two vague clarities?

Or will it not be a clarity

Between two dark triangles?

Or will life not be a fish

Prepared to be a bird?

Will death consist of nonbeing

Or of dangerous substances?

-Pablo Neruda, translated by William O’Daly



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