Ramadan Day 6 – Which Way to Qibla?

“The fly knocks against the window/again & again & / your

name in my mind/knocking” – from Metta Sáma’s “After the Bridge Connecting Diego & Frida’s Houses”

“The opposite of depression is empathy.” – overheard via radio on the 101 near Downtown LA

Allah, I faltered when I prayed today. My head fell on the carpet. I don’t even know the proper way to pray. Do my mistakes even matter? I’m tired of always being a beginner.

“I don’t really know what I’m doing,” I say. “You must be in a phase of experimentation,” claims Marcy, the new employee. “Do you know the hotspots?” I guessed and led her to the supply room. We prayed together in that dark closet.

I had to pee 6 times in about one hour after Sehri because that’s what happens when you drink 3 glasses of water in twenty minutes before 3:46am.  Ramadan stress.

At the tech hub, this 60-year-old white lady says (quite kindly): “I think you’re in the wrong bathroom.” I forget who I am, and ask (quite genuinely) “huh?” I can never get over those times when I start talking and then the person blushes and says “Sorry.”  I say nothing.

I prepare to write during my usual time, after Fajr, and I manage one sentence:

This Ramadan I am faltering.

“If this don’t flow cool

maybe i am not the river

if it don’t call moons

maybe I am not the dance

if it don’t spin gold

maybe I am not the griot

but who will rise the dragons”

-from Ruth Forman’s “We Spin Unalone”

Tanzila Ahmed, founder of the “Poetry-A-Day for Ramadan group” asks: “Anyone else having a hard time writing poems?” Several of us are still replying. We discuss back aches, head aches, heart aches. We discuss our exhaustion. The answer is yes.

I flew from the middle of the country back with a quickness – so I could be close to this group of Queer Muslims in NYC. I think of them as my fasting family. We’re a Book Club Plus. During Ramadan, we pray together without hijab (unless you want one, however you identify, that’s okay too), gender-queer, without reservations. Every night there is Qu’ran study. We pick a Surah to study together.

“O people! Here is a parable, so listen to it. Those whom you call upon apart from Allah cannot create even a fly, though they may all join hands for it. And if the fly should snatch away something from them, they cannot recover it from it. Feeble indeed is the seeker (- the worshippers) and (feeble) the sought after (- the worshipped one).” – Surat 22 Al-Hajj, 78th Ayat, from The Holy Qu’ran

“It means the arrogance of the scientists.”

“It means the pride of mankind is nothing compared to Allah”

What page is it? What is an Ayat? I ask again and again and again.

“At 40, the human brain fails to absorb and learn new languages.” – overheard on the radio on 134 near Pasadena

What if I never learn Arabic?  What if I never understand the fly?

“Give to us the pleasure

Of misdemeanors.

Let each of us do

What we’ve always

Dreamed of,

But were too polite

To act out.

Authorize us to touch what was always held

Just beyond our reach.

Give us a taste

Of the stolen world.”

-from Cornelius Eady’s “Atomic Prayer”

Each Ramadan is different in its quality. 2015 is more physically painful than any the past eight years. I can’t reach the meditative state I usually do because I’m so tired. Eating is less pleasurable. I don’t taste things because I don’t have the time to taste.

I don’t write things because I have nothing wise to say. This is how I felt when I did my MFA – that I was nothing, nobody, nada. Writing felt so hard because one day I’d write something that somebody would tell me was a mess.  Or worse, they’d say it was beautiful.  Didn’t matter because the next day, I was always a disappointment.  I planned for failure.  T always tells me to cut that out, that success is something I need to plan for.  Or else, how am I supposed to do something with it when it’s here?  But this year, all I carry around in my heart when I try to write in this Ramadan journal is that same fear.  Of not being able to communicate with you.

I’ve never dreaded writing so much as I do this year.

Or last year.

Ra’d allows me to talk loudly on the subway car to a florid white woman who simultaneously ear-hustles us and scolds us with her eyebrows.  “I’m depressed.” Ra’d says.  “I’m over forty.  If you’re over forty, and you’re depressed, then it’s worse.  Because why is it still happening?”

“Of course, it’s worse.  We’re super-weak and vulnerable now – so not super-heroes anymore. It’s not like depression goes away. Or you get to be young again. Now you to protect yourself even more, way more, because we’re not as resilient as we were in our 20’s and our 30’s. We’re more fragile. This time when it hurts, we don’t have a decade ahead to say, ‘I’m still young.’ So you’ve got the same problems, but you’re not the same person. That’s why we rely on better tools rather than the strength of being young, like good boundaries and quality friends.”

Writing didn’t used to be so hard. It was never easy, but despite the fact that I have written more and more, I’m further and further away from being good.

I didn’t come all this way to talk about flies.

I didn’t come all this way to feel so weak.

I hate myself, sometimes. I have taken pride in my work. I’ve received accolades and praise. Why don’t I get to keep these feelings? I don’t wake up feeling good. I wake up feeling angry. Why must I come to the page new? Every time?

Writing is Faith

that I Matter

“every day

i hear your voice

beyond the hills.”

  • Sonia Sanchez from “memory haiku”

I’m sorry that I don’t have anything great to say, but

I’m so close to writing something for you today.

I know it.

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