Ramadan Day 5 – I Got the Burbs for You



Iraq? Well, as I said before:

If you start me talking,

I’ll tell everything I know,

& now I’ll say this:

Please, America,

let’s forget the old warfare

of skin color & hair.

I can see a gutted palace in Hue,

Dust devils rising from the ashes

of Operation Phoenix. Gods

fighting other gods.

The looting & pillage

of museums in Baghdad—

the shattering of a porcelain pig

with a ball-peen hammer.

Looters running with engraved images

& figures, statues, icons, & cuneiforms

stained with the blood

& shit of war. Some are messengers

of the dead, trying to hide

treasures from the infidels,

as if we’re the last horde

of barbarians storming the gates.

Others, of course,

are filling orders for this blue jug

of Sumerian clay shaped & fired

on the bank of the Euphrates,

or that statue lying like a dead child

in a heap of rubble,

the shadow of a desert

ram burned into it.

-from Yusef Komunyakaa’s Autobiography of My Alter Ego

[with apologies to Mr. Komunyakaa as I typed up the poem and couldn’t format properly.]


“Nobody reads poetry anymore. Not even the people who write it.”

– Anonymous


“I can’t stay. There’s no poetry here.”

-me in 2000 my first day setting foot in Boalt Hall. Looking back, I want to put an “if” between the “I can’t stay.” and “There’s no poetry here.”


“Isn’t Islamophobia another word for racism?”



Writing depends on shutting things out. For how else could I be writing if I were not not, in this exact moment, thinking about death?


I am thinking about childhood and childbirth instead.


Last summer I was terrified and crying, heart-broken and clicking on my ex’s Facebook photos of us whenever I wasn’t crying, so that I could start crying again. Obviously. My sister had to go pick up her eldest son, my nephew B, early again because he wasn’t behaving at school. This happened to her all the time since he started preschool (although it’s stopped this past year – praise!) She’d get a call in the middle of the day and have to leave to pick him up. He has a disability. She was exhausted all the time and very stressed about how he would learn if he got kicked out.


That night as she sat at the dinner table picking at her eldest son’s limp peas and carrots, I thought she was crying. But she was only rubbing her eyes.

“I’m so tired. I’m so stressed out,” she said. “Before you have kids somebody should tell you that you have no life once you have them.”

“Don’t tell me that,” I said.

“You have to give up everything.”



I explained to Domenica today, “I’m having a block around getting sperm from a bank. I don’t know what’s going on with me.”

“Do you think it’s because it’s making it more real, or is it something about picking the person?”

“Maybe it’s both,” I say. “But I feel like I want to talk about it, and it’s hard to find the right friends to support me through this process. I feel like it can be TMI, or I don’t care, or it’s too painful to talk to you about this.”

“I don’t want kids. I mean you have to want them, right?” Domenica says, “Talk to me about the SB’s.”

“You know you can say Sperm Bank.”

“No, I really can’t.”

I giggle.


When did war become about men? Was it always that way? Or did we simply decide that things worth fighting about came from men? Is that why they have taken the concept of men and folded it until it looked like my grandmother’s origami crane. I used to flap their wings and then take them apart so I could figure out how to re-fold them. The lines never came back together right.




My mother has cooked every single day for me. I come home for Iftar and she has dinner laid out. Last night was beef and a celery stir fry. This is the first year that I haven’t been eating out on the regular during Ramadan. This is my first year fasting at home. I was so lonely in NYC, in Brooklyn. I felt that everybody else was better at making a family than I was, or that the family I had didn’t really want me because they didn’t need me. My mom Am I homesick for being lonely?


This is my mother whose heart fluttered at the thought that her daughter would stop drinking fluids during the day. “Just take a tylenol or an advil for your headache,” she begs of me. I make my way up the stairs.


The way the light

is real yellow

reminds the kids outside

and the adults inside

travel by particle beam

is possible.


About two weeks ago, when I’d first returned to California, my sister leaned close and whispered, “Has anybody told you the secret about having children?”

I shake my head.

“You have to give up everything.”

“Somebody did tell me that.”


I had so much on my mind today. I had to do things like get a yoga mat and buy an ovulation kit and Pedialyte (pro-tip for the dehydration fasters). I wandered the rows of Target fascinated by my inability to concentrate and how I was able to stay for nearly an hour in the store and not actually pick anything up. I wondered if I was stoned.


Setting Side Note: Did you know that people in my fancy suburban town actually revolted when Target sent mailers to the entire town that they were closing it down? Target wanted a Super-Target, the best and the most luxurious to exist in this town, as befits its status as a wealthy suburb. So Target offered that the people could use the Target in another nearby ritzy burb (Saratoga – about a 15 minute drive away). Target went back and forth with the villagers for weeks, fielding complaint after complaint that they needed their OWN target. In a firm stance, they gave notice to all their staff and told them to find jobs at other targets, which most of them did. Eventually, things got so bad, and the mob was forming – maybe talking about boycott and all that, Target finally realized that they needed the moolah. So Target relented and decided that now they would keep the store open and appease the villagers and remodel different parts of the building. But all the employees who knew where the stuff was in the store had already either been laid off, or went to other Targets. So now nobody really works there, but people still shop there.


As I wandered around, I came very close to buying an unnecessary armchair (because I was tired) as well as random vitamins and a medicine ball. Do I need new shoes? I’m so tired that for a second I think wouldn’t it’d be great if I could just buy a baby.


Wait one second, please.


I have to place an order.




by Nikki Giovanni


if I can’t do

what i want to do

then my job is to not

do what I don’t want

to do


it’s not the same thing

but it’s the best I can



if I can’t have

what I want   then

my job is to want

what i’ve got

and be satisfied

that at least there

is something more

to want


since i can’t go

where i need

to go   then I must   go

where the signs point

though always understanding

parallel movement

isn’t lateral


when i can’t express

what I really feel

i practice feeling

what i can express

and none of it is equal

i know

but that’s why mankind

alone among the mammals

learns to cry



Here, let me try to make it up to you Mr. Komunyakaa.

In memory of the deaths reported this week in Baghdad and Yemen.




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