Ramadan Day 8 – Wild Goose Qi Gong

IMG_5857questions and answers by Lucille Clifton


Three hours into consciousness on Saturday my back felt sore from lying in bed to watch episodes of Arrow.

I remembered how Pele told me she would do yoga and even go on runs while she fasted. This was really hard for me to hear because I’m such a fasting sloth. But it was also inspirational. As much as I’ve wanted to be more physically active, I can feel my age. When I first started fasting, over eight years ago, I would actually play competitive doubles tennis matches with my girlfriend at the time while we both fasted. It’s true that the days were shorter, and I was fitter, but still I’ve run into a lot more health problems this year.

The other day I wrote Orion, a friend I don’t know well, but whom I trust implicitly because she’s always at the readings (poetry AND prose) that I attended in NYC. I didn’t actually go to a lot of readings, but when I did, Orion was there. Sometimes she’d be there by herself. She wasn’t there for the scene. Someone who loves books and words that much is obviously capable of being good with Allah. I asked Orion for advice about fasting structure. She curated a few great suggestions, including not saving the to-do’s all for the end of the day, writing a list of only 3 things to do that day, keeping something fun in that mix, and the one that seemed best: get some fresh air. “Air out your mind,” Orion wrote.


“Air out your mind,” Orion wrote.


Keeping Pele, Orion, and that whole literary pack of exercise and fitness fanatics in mind, I slowly formed the thought that I needed to at least get out of bed.

I decided to go to the Wild Goose Qi Gong class at the YMCA. I mean with a name like that how could anybody resist? Qi Gong, for those of you who don’t know what it is – can be googled. But seriously, it is basically energy movement exercises, and it’s meant to heal the body. It’s very gentle. In fact, ever since I kicked my headache a few days ago with pedialyte (thanks Domenica), I’ve thought I should challenge myself with some form of exercise, but nothing fit until I saw this illustrious description:


Increase balance and body awareness in this freely flowing, spirited class that uses slow, graceful movements to mimic the wild goose and align breath, movement and awareness. Appropriate for beginners and older adults.


I’ve always wanted to mimic the wild goose. Is it the Y or Y-MOMA? Anybody’s call.

“Remember, in Qi Gong, we are teaching the body to heal itself,” Etienne, the course instructor said as she swept us through movement after movement.

Nearly everybody in the class was a senior, or disabled – a couple people stayed seated in chairs and one in a wheelchair. Etienne was wonderfully disorganized and didn’t both to overly explain anything she was doing. Her accent felt familiar as rain. I rather liked her style, basically “keep up and breathe.”

During a water break, she came up to me and introduced herself since I wasn’t a regular.

“Do you have any health issues or problems, any pain, that I should know about?” she asked. “I have to ask you if you’ve done Qi Gong before?”

“I did some Tai Chi, but not Qi Gong. Actually, I’m in great health,” I chirped. I tried not to think about throwing out my upper back the other night, or how my right knee hurts when I crouch. I tried not to think about my pain, and even though I wasn’t planning on telling her, I added. “Oh, not that it matters, but I’m fasting for Ramadan.”

“Well, I fast a couple times a year. That’s no problem. Hmmm. You know fasting is all about elimination,” she said. “In Qi Gong, everything needs to be round. We are constantly moving, shifting the energy.”

“Like this?” I asked. I spread a wing and my beak toward the ceiling.

“Like this,” she said, bowing her neck. “Keep moving. More. More. Move your body more.”

I obliged and unfurled my wings.

“How can you heal if you don’t move?”


“How can you heal if you don’t move?”


The best question anyone’s asked this goose in a long time.

Soon after my breakup last summer, it became difficult for me to ride the metro alone. Traveling even the distance from my home in Brooklyn into Union Square on the Q express, which is a relatively easy train ride, felt as if I was taking an elevator down to the center of the earth. To doom. Even going a few stops to Atlantic filled me with panic. It was exhausting to go anywhere. I felt friends judging me as I frantically did backflips or rearranged things or texted everyone I knew just so that I could have company on a subway ride or get them to come toward me. Or, if I couldn’t accommodate my fear, I didn’t leave my apartment.

When I was in California, I asked to be driven everywhere. I felt confused behind the wheel. I felt that I maybe didn’t care enough, or didn’t have the energy to care about what was happening on the road, so it wasn’t safe for me to drive.

All of these are symptoms of depression. I knew it, but I also didn’t care.

So it’s natural, I suppose, that one of my turning points was the extended travel I did in the Fall. I cried my way to Beacon by myself for my birthday, joined by two dear friends, and my apartment toilet broke for over a couple week (you couldn’t flush it whatever the method so it seemed an apt analogy to say my life was shit). I sobbed my way to Queens for a night and then Brooklyn to stay with friends whose bathrooms worked. I got on a plane and went to Dallas for a few days, and then weeks later, I flew to Cleveland, Ohio to do election protection work with Courtru, and when I came back, after the disaster election, I left again to hang out with Sami in Long Island for Thankstaking. I was scared of the train each time. I was scared to be traveling. The beginning, especially, of each of those trips was filled with anxiety and terror.

Yet talking to Queen, a year later, all I can think about is how much I want to drive up and down the coast with Queen to LA, or go to Santa Cruz, or drive across the country when they take their car to NYC. Because I want to knock myself up, I’m scared that I don’t get to fly places, and if I’m successful I won’t get to travel the way I used to travel. A couple weeks ago, I told my mom that I couldn’t join her in Taiwan this year. Wouldn’t you know it? I’m no longer scared that I’ll have to travel — I’m scared I won’t get to travel. What a relief.

I told Queen about Etienne and the Wild Goose Qi Gong because who wouldn’t want to know about something called Wild Goose Qi Gong.

“I miss fasting with the queer Muslims in NYC,” I said. “I feel like I don’t know how to communicate with people here because most of the people I know in California aren’t fasting. I’m worried that I’ll say stupid things.”

“Fasting with someone is like taking drugs with them,” Queen said. “It’s a special experience, like tripping on acid, and you really feel this connection because other people can’t understand you, but you can understand each other. It’s a special bond.”


“Fasting with someone is like taking drugs with them,” Queen said.


 

I thought about the years I had Suhoor with Saimo or Iftar with the Imam and S, and even Iftar with Penny — how lovely it sometimes was.

“Maybe that’s why I still Skype in before Iftar. Maybe despite all the ways in which there’s been so much conflict and toxic stuff in our community. At the heart of it – they were the first community I fasted with – these are the people I Iftar’d with. I never had a mosque and so I feel attached and a part of something.”

Many queer Muslims experience community as dysfunction through their Masjids.

Etienne’s voice came back to me. “Fasting is about elimination.”

By leaving NYC when I did, I tried to eliminate all the excess negative energy from other people’s problems, the hellfire of drama. In some ways, it was a city that brought me so many lovely people. But caring about those same people often felt like my downfall. My friend Doll, a native New Yorker once warned me: “In NYC you have to be tough because you have to prioritize. There’s always something and someone else to deal with. You always have options, so you get to know what’s important to you.”

“I read today that trauma not transformed is transmitted.” – Queen

It’s taken me a long time to understand what belongs to me and to see the difference between people who are broken and need love and who has done the work and can love. There have been times when I thought I could be there for people, but mostly, I failed them because I wasn’t working on myself – I was distracting myself from my problems by engaging in theirs.

These past years I’ve deserved to heal. That’s why I tell my friends to seek therapy. That’s why I love seeing people work so hard on myself. You’ll never find me in a corner pointing at someone and being like, “That person spends way too much time getting therapy, or doing healing work, or working through their pain.”

Once, while driving on the 10 in LA heading West to downtown, I heard an expert in I-don’t-know-what ask the radio DJ, “What’s the opposite of depression?”

“Maybe happiness or joy,” the DJ answered.

“No, the opposite of depression is empathy.”

“I don’t get that. How is that the opposite?”

“Because when you’re depressed you start focusing inward more and more until all your energy is concentrated solely on your problems. You’re locked in a belief that nothing you do is worthy. You can’t see yourself as you actually are. You can’t see outside of your own thoughts or your own feelings. Empathy is the ability to feel what’s outside of you and your experience.”

If there’s one thing I recommend to folks who’ve experienced trauma it’s to travel. Go somewhere else, preferably someplace you’ve never been before. Being surrounded by the unknown activates every part of your mind to try and understand what is happening around you, why it’s happening. When you return, your confidence is buoyed.

I don’t mean that you have to buy an expensive plane ticket, or take the train, though those are great options. Only that you do something to shake your mind loose. For Queen, that was acid. For me, it was a combination of travel and working out regularly. I got rid of some bad habits in the hopes that it would give me the confidence to make changes. Movement. Change.

For example, how I felt at the beginning of every train ride was similar to how I feel every time I sit down to write. It’s as if some terrible dungeon door forged of metal and steel has materialized, locked, in front of me. It was built by people much stronger and taller than me. It has to be pushed open somehow, and I can’t cut it. But I put my shoulder to it, and then sit down and cry, and then get up, and put my shoulder to it, and then sit down and cry, and one day, by inches, I get the door open a crack. I’m so happy that I push it a little wider, and wouldn’t you know it – from there, the door gets easier and easier to open. Once it swings open, I walk through to the other side.

I’m not a body-centered person. I’m not an earth sign, or even a fire sign. I’m not from an active lifestyle family. The opposite. A family full of heart disease and diabetes, television and potato chips, smoking and cancer. Our struggle isn’t vanity. Exercise isn’t my common sense. But maybe that’s why Wild Goose Qi Gong was so great. It wasn’t exercise, per se, it was movement.

I’m the child of immigrants. My parents know what it means to travel to a foreign land and to face the unknown so that they and their children can lead a better life. Immigrants know how impossible it is to hang on to who they used to be in light of all this newness. Just ask how their kids feel as the parents try to establish a static old world order while the kids learn English and “American” values. Yet even as an immigrant begins to adapt, to acclimate, and even to forget their past, they find they can’t leave behind the person they used to be. Even if they want to. Opposing forces.

The magic of immigrant families is that we know what it means to take the old place / old self and to fuse it together with the new place /new self. We are original structures. It’s an alchemy of sorts, the transformation Queen was talking about.


returning


 

The sad part is that the bones of the immigrant’s structure are new, and often they’re delicate because they’re healing. The doctor always reminds me to treat emotional injuries like broken bones — they need to be held with such care. We can’t put much weight on them because they’ve recently mended. But in this country, with all its violence and its torment of materiality, we immediately get to ground and we have to start running.

This is also the magic of fasting for Ramadan. I’m getting rid of my excesses. My intentions aren’t just to stop eating and drinking and to make it through the day. I’m fasting from drama. I’m letting go of grudges and petty hurts. I’m making way for the journeys that matter most to me. Love. Family. Writing. Community. I know I needed to move deeply into my fears and also toward love, and that’s why I moved to California. I’m fasting for simplicity. I’m fasting to get to the heart of my matters.

Ramadan keeps me from running too fast, from getting too far ahead of myself, from moving at my usual speed. It doesn’t prevent me from moving.

In fact, during Ramadan, one would say that we’re moving more deliberately and more inward, rather than outward. We move away from the daily tribulations and sorrows and anxieties that usually occupy us. We move to a place that is more slow, a place of pause.

My friend Pink is Sufi. I’ve told this story before in my blogs, but I need to tell it again. Her grandmother loves the month of Ramadan. She especially loved to fast, but in her 70’s, her health no longer permitted her to fast. She decided to start fasting and drinking water. She would sit for hours praying and only sip when she was thirsty. When another Muslim pointed out that she wasn’t fasting, she said that Allah would see her intentions and that was her way of fasting. It had never been her intention to deny herself what was necessary to her body, but what was unnecessary to her mind.


Night

By Kazim Ali

Up against the window, the fading sun.

In rags, Orion’s notes appear against your skin.

Sparsely thrown across your chest.

Swathed in the folds of blankets.

Now you are luminous.

The bow no longer exists.

The star chart I traced into the palm of my hand.

Has smoke written all through it.

Are you terrified of absolute silence?

I drive miles into the country just to have a look at you.

You are no plagiarist of dusk.

Nothing in the sky equals itself.

All the stars have changed positions.

All the fortunes have been faked.

Charted against a lover who hasn’t existed for a million years.

Ramadan Day 7 Light Years

for m.y. & a.l.

 

 

 

then. the music of i don’t know wound its way within me.

a me practicing piano at nine. stopped by seventeen.

 

you were fifty, then sixty, snow white hair and dwarfing me.

help me. you said. i know you understand. i’m a woman

 

trapped. in this body. memorized by sound. a book of notes.

addressed. to me. as a child did i only play at being a man?

 

your star is not still but still shines in the galaxy of my eyes.

my father died. you told me it would take away something

 

from me that i could never recover. the 10 downtown smelled

of rubber. you were like me once. i leaned forward throat-first

 

but all those years of practice with my sense of secrecy intact.

how could i know i’d return from grief. your pillow held under

 

one arm. your water bottle in hand. thailand was a success.

you said. you felt young again. you said. the disco ball hung

 

like a planet. a dance of slick and sweat. two women. named.

after you and i. now. the way my fingers slipped from one key

 

to the next. we are the same people. only practiced at grief.

 

-light years between us

 

 

 

“We have this impossibly short time to try to do something good. At least, we can create a little love, a little joyousness and a little warmth around us.” -a.l.

Ramadan Day 6 Ramadan Fight Club: List of Times Not to Fight with Me While I’m Fasting because I’m too Tired and Can’t Pay Attention to You (But Maybe I Kind of Want To)

I had grand plans for today’s blog post, which was a relief, because the previous ones for this year’s Ramadan were unplanned. So as with writing, the unplanned life, is a beautiful thing. I think most of you, myself included, would’ve preferred to read what I could’ve written about: which is why we should be asking God for whatever it is that we want? (So long as it’s not bad). It actually grew out of a post originally titled “How I asked God for a Baby” Maybe if I can get it together tomorrow I’ll write that post. In the meantime . . .

List of Times not to Fight with Me while I’m Fasting because I’m too Tired and Can’t Pay Attention to You (But Maybe I Kind of Want To)

1. 4:20ish – 6am: Don’t fight with me right after Suhoor because that’s the worst. I’ve just eaten, and I’m holding a bellyful of water. I’ve also just prayed, so I will feel extra terrible if I lose my temper after intentionally speaking to God about how the day might go and also asking for forgiveness. It so sucks when I’m being bad, but I’ve tried so hard to be good.

Also, I have a TON of energy because I can’t quite sleep because my stomach is uncomfortably full. This means that energy gets a bit mis-directed, and in a fight with you, it may come out at you. And yeah, I will have to use the restroom in the middle of the argument, maybe more than once.

2. 6am – noon: Don’t fight with me in the morning. If I’m not working, then I’m sleeping, or trying to binge watch something. I’m ignoring you anyway, so it’s not a big deal, come to think of it.

3. 12 – 1pm: I had therapy.

I love myself too much to fight with you.

4. 2 – 3pm: Don’t fight with me during the best part of my fasting day. Usually I’m calmly sitting there processing deep thoughts and anxieties and simultaneously working. I’m not too hungry yet, though I may be a little thirsty. This is the best part of the fast for me because usually I’m not THAT hungry. Also, I’m really fascinated by the sunlight. It’s so pretty everywhere in California.

4. 3 – 4pm: Don’t fight with me when I notice that most of the day has gone, and I’ve barely done anything except work.

For example, I didn’t make it through the sperm donor catalog, or call the acupuncturist, or schedule the meeting time with me, or re-watch that lesbian Supergirl episode that I really like and have recommended to several friends. It’s quite touching. (I cried.) Mind you, I’ve been working for a solid two hours and formulated very few thoughts while rubbing my eyes (allergies) and staring at a computer screen.

I may spare some attention for people who bug me, but that’s it. No focusing on them! That’s how scattered I am. This window of time can be a really big pivot point in my day.

Sometimes this is when I decide to take a walk. I’m so not fighting with your ass if that’s the case. Because I probably left my phone at the library, where I will later hope it’s not stolen. Pokemon Go is less fun when you’re fasting because it’s really not that important (surprise!), and like I’ve said in countless blog posts — you’re starving so it’s not like you have the energy to focus on petty things.

Although I did catch some cute Pokemon and name them after friends I miss. Go. Me.

5. 4 – 6pm: Really? This is point break for me. I’m usually done with work.

This is when I have to make decisions that I’m utterly incapable of making. Like, do I call people back? Do I text? I really really want to schedule that meeting with the doctor. I kind of have dry mouth right about now. The past few days I had a wee headache.

I definitely called up my writing accountabilibuddy – since it’s a Thursday – and because it’s Crystal and she’s one of those people who’s both really practical, direct, and also really nurturing and has a fantastic imagination and intelligent as fuck. (If you find an accountabilibuddy who is like that, then hang on.) I may have told Crystal a few things, like fasting brain is really the same thing as pregnancy brain. Which means I’m ready to be pregnant… right???

I may have asked her some uncomfortable questions about stuff, like stuff about getting pregnant. Crystal may have told me a far more uncomfortable story about Betsy Devos and some resistance-type performance art that involved a lot of almond milk. All I know is that we were both grossed out. I was also hiding in my sister’s house and occasionally barging out to watch P – my 4-year old nephew who is honestly the easiest child in the world ever to babysit. He is soooo great at playing legos by himself. Seriously, he told me to leave him alone. Or maybe I’m delirious.

Come on, I may be trying to write or to read, or just sitting there wanting a nap so it’s definitely not a good time to fight with me. I’ve definitely started on my blog, or at least thought about it.

I’m not thinking about you.

6. 6 – 7pm: Ok, but why are the Cavs and the Warriors in this year’s final again? Isn’t that weird for other cities?

I’m trying to write my blog while simultaneously checking FaceBook posts. Today I had some good ones. Lots of stuff about how Trump removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement is gonna lead to doom and mass climate change/world destruction. Well, actually our ignorance and extreme desire to produce and the brand of our capitalism as well as inequity and poverty toward which we have greater attachment than the survival of our species will lead to mass climate change. That plus Trump. I have a lot more to say about that, but it could fill a book since I used to work in this field.

Also, I clicked on some gorgeous pictures from poet Samiya Bashir who’s in Iceland – HECK YES. Tomorrow – as in Friday, June 2, 2017 an amazing production from D’Loco Kid called Private Dick is gonna premiere live streamed tomorrow. I wrote a FB post and tagged 80 people in the comments, and then I re-did that 3 times, but each time I couldn’t stop myself from tagging over 50. Dangnabbit. Will have to wait until I break this fast, I guess. It’s weird how repetitive I get.

Oh, and not to get side-tracked, but I also read about how Filipino food is gonna be the next great American cuisine. Because I like to torture myself. Mostly, I stared at the picture that led the story. And, I read some great articles – one from Randa Jarrar called “Being a Bad Muslim Help Me Get Out of a Bad Marriage” and one from Teen Vogue by Amanda Randone called “What Happens When You Get Your Period During Ramadan” and then another one by Zeinab Khalil and Annie Sajid called “Ramadan is Not a Poverty Simulation Game.” Ok, actually – truth – I didn’t read all those three for the first time during 6-7pm. I re-read two of them, that I’d actually read earlier, but I can’t remember when. It was in the last 24 hours.

I’m also reading poems and writings from folks in the Poetry-A-Day for Ramadan FaceBook group. Sometimes I’m commenting. Definitely I’m

WHAT is happening to me? I’m not sure if I’m reading or writing anymore. Who cares about conflict? I’m distracted.

7. 7 – 8pm: I’m writing y’all! Leave me alone.

Deadlines work even during Ramadan. It’s good to know. And this year I have so few non-fasting hours, that I’ve decided to write only while I’m fasting. I really like this habit actually because writing when I’m fasting is interesting. I have no idea what I’m gonna say next.

8. 8 – 8:20ishpm: I’m feverishly getting Iftar stuff ready or driving or something. Don’t got time for your nonsense!

9. 8:20ish – 9:30pm: Eating and digesting

10. 9:30pm – 3:30ish am: Ok, so I have my energy back. Big deal. I also have a lot I have to do, and even though it’s too late to call most people, I’m super tired from fasting all day. I can’t even believe that you would think about fighting with me during the few good hours of either consciousness or sleep I have. Seriously, this is why I try to mostly talk to Muslims and other folks who are fasting during Ramadan — I stand a much better shot at being forgiven or understood because my brain is dead. Like killed dead buried ain’t no such thing as getting it back until tomorrow.

Also, I put off binge watching stuff on Netflix all day, I’ll have you know. So don’t get on my case. I need to find a solid Korean dramedy. I’m in luck . . .Silla, I’m coming!

11. 3:30ish – 3:40isham: snooze

12. 3:40ish – 3:50ishan: snooze

13. 3:50 – 4:20ish: OMG! Must fry that egg! Must drink all those glasses of water, plus pedialyte, plus coconut water, plus juice, plus make a sandwich or stuff leftovers into my mouth. I hope my tummy doesn’t hurt. I don’t even think anybody but God could be alive at this particular moment. Certainly not you.

When I pray, I’m gonna pray nothing bad. I’m not even gonna think a bad thought. I’m gonna ask God to help me fight you by not fighting you. Because, wait up

I’M TOO BUSY FIGHTING MYSELF.

Ok, but why didn’t I call this post Ramadan Fight Club?


Blackbody Curve
Stairs: a rushed flight down thirty-eight; French doors unlocked always.
Always: a lie; an argument.
Argument: two buck hunters circle a meadow’s edge.
Edge: one of us outside bleeding.
Bleeding: shards of glass; doors locked.
Locked: carpet awash with blood.
Blood: lift and drop; a sudden breeze.
Breeze: its whistle through bone.
Bone: the other was looking at —
Bone: cradled to catch drips.
Drips: quiet as a meadow fawn.
Fawn: faces down each hunter each gun.
Gun: again.
Again: somebody call someone.
Someone: almost always prefers forgetting.
Forgetting: an argument; a lie.
Lie: a meadow; a casement; a stair.

Ramadan Day 5 – I Got the Burbs for You

IMG_5848

 

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?”

-T


 

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.

 

IMG_5847

 

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.

 


 

Choices

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

do

 

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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Ramadan Day 4 – I Tell Myself


is there a place in the
community.
for
those who leave.
but
never leave (you).

–ex

by nayyirah waheed


“I never saved anything for the swim back.” from Gattaca

 


I would like a routine I tell myself as I wake up for the first morning without a headache.

I make my way downstairs and think about snatching a chip from my mother’s table. Since I’ve moved across the cuntry, I’ve been unable to anchor myself. I float in a jumble of activities that seem to push me further and further into outer space. I can’t decide whether to clean my mom’s study, to organize my closet, to buy furniture, to look for an apartment or room in Oakland, What am I doing today, I ask myself, and it turns out that an attorney I was hoping to meet with so we could strategize some community development work is unable to meet. I have an unexpected work request, but I think that I need to start doing at least one thing every day. The best way for me to be productive is to go the library.

I’m going to write for hours, I tell myself, about my feelings while reading a book of nayyirah waheed’s poetry.

At the library, two high-schoolers immediately join me and one of them has chicken poppers, and the other one has boba. At first I stare at them from under my baseball cap, but I decide that the look of longing may be misunderstood. So instead I glare. But that makes me feel uncomfortable so instead I put on my headphones and float off to outer space.

I worked most of the day, slowly but steadily. I texted with the Imam. How’s your fast going? I ask.
Physically fine. Mentally just been a little confused, she writes.
That’s a good way of putting it I realize.
I’m mentally confused too, I type. But I forget to press send.
In hindsight, that’s just as well. When I come back to the text later in what was ten minutes, but felt like an hour, I am still very confused.

 

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Right now, I’m at the public library watching the fountain outside squirt little lines of water up and down. This makes me feel that I should definitely get on the whole calling the sperm banx and getting more info thing. But I’m mentally confused, I tell myself, and what if I pick a donor who isn’t the right fit?

T once said to me, as she slung down a martini with a certain strong emphasis, Who cares? It’s a crapshoot! That’s how straight people do it! We laughed.

There’s something awful about having too many choices. Queer people not only negotiate gender roles and public/private distinctions, if they’re privileged enough to go into the artificial reproduction system — they need to be able to take action despite the fundamental truth of giving birth or becoming a parent: Nobody is ever ready.

I remember once having a meltdown about whether to go to a restaurant or a rally at the airport against Trump. S said to me, would you like me to be directive? I can do that for you. Let’s go to this hearing at the courthouse. S listens very carefully to the people around her. I worry sometimes that she’s better at listening to me than I am.

One of the few regular activities that sustains me is speaking to Queen who is a new friend. One of my favorite things about Queen is that they’re a really confident person, but also that they’re aware of the space they occupy in the world. Also, they love to process, and I love to process. Queen resides in NYC but feels very sad about not being in CA. Every time I speak to Queen, I feel very sad that I’m not in NYC. This is a relationship that works within a mutually occupied framework of loss and longing. Still, despite the fact that I feel supported by my NYC friends, I often tell myself that I have to be independent and learn to wean myself from the City and all the kinfolk, queer family I built there. It’s a thought with a bitter underbelly: I’m going to lose them all eventually, so why not now? And telling myself that I have to be ready to do these things instead of allowing them to happen (or not happen) organically is probably why I found myself joining in Quran study with my queer community miles via FaceTime.

(pro-tip from one of my friends. friend: you’re dehydrated! me: i can only drink some water friend: electrolytes – get some of that stuff with electrolytes in it!)

(Also, as sidenote #2, I don’t know how to footnote on wordpress, but I seriously dislike certain words. They taste like, welllll…you don’t want to know what they taste like, but one of these words is organic. Everything about it sucks. When people use it, I sometimes want to get up out of my chair and tell them — hey, my life didn’t just happen without my agency. But I can hear it now. Blah Blah Blah.)

For my blog, I had so many good ideas. I planned to entertain with some more fictional chapters about one of my favorite characters Alameda, she of the never-ending anxiety (a common trait we share) and the talking bear.

I hoped to read a different poet and then everyday I planned to write a poem in the style of each poet.

I wanted to address a different community or current news topic and free write my feelings about it, or maybe do a little research into ways we could effect change.

Oh! Oh! My favorite idea was the one where I would write letters to all the people who are dear to me. One a day for each day of Ramadan. But then I had to scrap that because I became consumed with anxiety at the thought of inadvertently revealing too much about myself. This may seem laughable to you in the context of my blog, but seriously – if you don’t have anything nice to say, you sure as hell shouldn’t blog about it.

Finally, I was left with the tried and true, absolutely themeless situation of this actual blog. This goes against my impulse as a storyteller. I like to imagine and then organize into an arc (it can be a very random arc that looks like a kindergartener drew it) or an outline (it can be the kind of outline that makes people think it’s better to live a life where magic is real). After all that work of story-telling, I then like to labor over sentence and detail, sometimes image, even sound. Sometimes when I write there’s a beat to each word, and it makes me really happy cuz then I can be bumping while typing.

Believe it or not, every time I’ve sat down and written, I’ve continued to ask myself
a: am I mentally confused? what am i writing about?
b: where am i?
c: what can i possibly say today? writing is like trying to catch butterflies with a net in the middle of your fasting day. also, it’s like the desert and there’s only a few butterflies flitting around here and there.

So today I tell myself to get into the groove, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly I wanted to say, or even a cohesive theme, and I really blame this all on the fact that on top of fasting, I wake up every day and every day I do something different because I haven’t really settled in to a home. I talk to different people. I write different things.

What I need is a routine. But I don’t have one. And maybe Ramadan provides enough structure so that I —

— I just went on FaceBook and saw that a whole bunch of people were posting one of those online generators — this one tells you what the title of your memoir should be. I got Where Are My Glasses? Hmmmm… Not as exciting as my personal favorite: Scheduling in the End Times.

–maybe Ramadan provides enough structure so that I don’t need to work so hard on my own internal routine. Maybe.

But sometimes when you’re really struggling the best thing to do is to visualize, so here goes.

This morning, I had a cup of Earl Grey and an English Muffin with one fried egg on top, and a strawberry and yogurt smoothie. I wrote for a couple hours and then jumped in the shower. After that, I went to the gym and did the elliptical for thirty minutes and then lifted for another half hour. I did ten reps of a tricep flattener on both arms, btw. Following the gym, I picked up a coffee from the local cafe.

I worked steadily at the cafe for a few hours and ticked off a list of to-do’s for my paid job.

Shortly after, I drove to my mom’s office and picked up my mother for lunch. She and I meet regularly for lunch on Mondays, but only Mondays. We made an exception as today is a Tuesday, but that was due solely to the holiday weekend. We went to her favorite bento box spot. She ordered the teriyaki chicken with nigiri, and I ordered the salmon with California roll. We both had a mug of green tea. I packed up the leftovers.

I dropped off said leftovers and a fresh cup of coffee with my mom, and I walked into the office. I spent a couple of hours in meetings with various staff and with my mom and sister (they work in the same place), and around 5:30 or so, I headed over to my sister’s place where we cooked dinner together. Sometimes her husband cooks dinner, but tonight was a shared cooking night.

We got out a slow cooker and tried a new Indian recipe from a slow-cooker book that I recovered from a friend, Ayesha’s, BookFace page. “The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes” by Anupy Singla. It was a huge hit, and my two sweet nephews both ate with us together at the dinner table while we discussed their day and whether how Black and Asian relationships can exist separately outside of the white gaze. Mid-way through dinner the doorbell rang, and my brother had decided to pay a surprise visit. He was dating a really hot dude, and he wanted to talk about how the first meeting would go.

in the early evening, after dinner, we all took a walk as a family to the nearby park where we played Pokemon Go, and my sister was able to take down a gym for the blue team, and my nephew B was able to find LordPokemon675 real identity. That person own most of the gyms in our area. I enjoyed holding hands with 4-year old P as he crossed the street.

The sun behind us was golden and orange all at once, kind of like the same burnished color as this couch I’m trying to get rid of (but that would be outside of this routine).

My mom and I walked home since that was the healthier option rather than driving for less than 5 minutes. When we got back home, Turkey the cat was purring graciously in the driveway, and we fed him. Then, we sat at the kitchen table together for a few more hours. I finished that novel S loves, Sea of Poppies, and my mom watched her favorite Korean soap opera.

I fell asleep thinking about how much love I have in my life. I prayed, of course, and I was the living embodiment of gratitude.

The next morning when I woke up, it was to the sound of my two darling babies screaming. My friend, Bollywood Heartthrob, also a writer who travels to Marin on the weekends — who’d been watching them so that I could have one true vacation day in the last year had brought them back to the house. I’d fallen asleep past my alarm.

“She actually peed on me,” Bollywood Heartthrob said, pointing at baby #1, stomping around. No worries, I said. I got this. I held my children close and thought to myself, I can’t wait to explain this world to you, but mommy sure needed that break. And as I cradled my two little hearts and hummed, my mom came over and encircled us all. I realized that you never really know what’s going to happen next, and that the only routine I wanted was being able to see the people I love everyday.

At least this is what I tell myself.

 

 

 


 

— From the Poetry-A-Day for Ramadan group by Mohja Kahf:

Clockwatching.
This is not a poem…just reporting Ramadan clockwatching, is all…and I mean, this is even with all the hacks/shortcuts/taking breaks / that we can muster…we have entered Ramadan clockwatching phase of day here at this house…6:09pm…weeded a lily patch and my son came out, not to help, but to tell me, “uh mom? It’s 6:12” “uh, son? that’s not the time we are waiting for, sorry.” then I was done weeding and it was still only 6:31pm…hope reading this passes a few minutes for you…

 


 

 

in our own ways
we all break.
it is okay
to hold your heart ourside of your body
for
days.
months.
years.
at a time.

— heal

by nayyirah waheed

Ramadan Day 3 – Ok with the Headache

 

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I considered breaking my fast early today on account of this demonache that’s kicking my ass. Yesterday, I took 2 tylenols and then 2 motrin and still couldn’t kick it. Oh well.

Winnie called to tell me of her adventures. It was late at night, and I couldn’t speak for long due to the seismic nature of my brain throb. Winnie likes somebody but recently ended it with somebody else. She tells me she needs some space to address the changes in her life. It’s nice to be around queer folk with an active dating life; I think that maybe some of their energy will rub off on me. Winnie is asking herself how much space to take from the first huni as opposed to the second huni.

Some people need more space than others. It’s tricky. The balance of space as opposed to interaction. I remember a friend, La Profesora, who once told me not to take too much space during a conflict. It’ll get weird, she said.

I never get the timing quite right when I take space from people. More often than not, it’s because I miss them more quickly, or because I’m taking longer to process what is happening within my world, and so often, it’s because of external factors. Because we never really know how space lands on someone.

Maybe that’s the point of space, though. That it causes things to change so things are always a little awkward when two people come together again. There’s something new. They have to be willing to get to know this new person.

I’m not the best at distancing myself from my emotions, but when I go into a space of processing my feelings – I go deep. All the better to come back out with gold.

IMG_5833

Debbie used to tell me all the time when I was dating someone to stop talking to them about the problem. Spend some time together, she’d say, without the problem. Enjoy each other’s company. Constantly addressing your problems doesn’t help your relationship. You need to have fun to remind each other of what is truly great about being together.

This advice is now bittersweet to me. It’s also wise. Thanks, in part, to this advice I have so many heart-ripping memories of my time with Penny before we split. Debbie’s the same person who once told me that most relationships end because one or both people in it don’t have the tools to navigate difficulty. It has nothing to do with how much they love each other, she used to say. You’re either mature enough or you’re not, and both people have to be there.

Another friend, River, once said to me after a break-up that she was very hopeful for love. We were at a sports bar in Brooklyn taking refuge from the pouring rain. I’m single and I’m heart-broken, she said, but know that I have the capacity to love deeply, so if I can love that way, somebody else can feel that way about me too.


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“Allah wants you to take joy in your gifts. He didn’t give them to you to cause sorrow.” The Doctor always advised me not to worry about becoming arrogant or to be embarrassed when I did something great. He told me that even though empathy has caused some problems in my life, that it also allowed me to accomplish those great things. How much time do you spend thinking about all the great things you’ve done? Is it as much as you spend thinking about your mistakes?

There’s a secret blessing to Ramadan. Spoiler alert (but only if you don’t observe Ramadan).

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It’s a reset button!

No, seriously. You know how everybody wants to rest their mistakes, or take back those words that hurt you (yah I know it’s a song), or mend fences . . . well, it’s not that kind of reset. Sorry. In the sense that life isn’t about regrets. It’s a reset for your emotional state You get to reflect. To clear. To change yourself. And, one of my favorites, to forgive yourself.

While fasting, I lack the energy to fight the truth about myself and the hard feelings that inevitably arise from those truths. I only have one direction I can travel:

INSIDE

And it’s beautiful here.

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I thought about not going on the hike at all. McClellan Ranch Park. The beating sun. The wild turkeys. My headache had moved into the territory of aftershocks, but still. As we winded our way through the hills, we passed the cemetery where my father was buried. I tensed.

We made a single-file line through the path. My sister, one of my nephews, my mom, my brother, my cousin, his girlfriend. I was being given an antidote to exhaustion. My brother noticed I was lagging.

Do you want to sit down? He asked. Are you okay?

I looked up and said I needed to take a picture.

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There’s unresolved conflict between my brother and me, between my sister and myself, between (well maybe it’s me…hmmm…), but we were walking in the sunlight.

I didn’t have the energy to hang on to worry or doubt over how we’d resolve these fights. So I hung on only to the joy of being together.


Q: In your dreams what do these new structures look like?

Ocean: I don’t know if it’s possible to say. I just feel the dream. I would articulate it as… Is it possible for queer joy—outsider-hood—to be so mundane that, in that simplicity, it’s radical? To insist that this joy does not have to end in tragedy, in death, in loss? We can just simply sit at a table and be okay for the next five minutes. For a lot of queer people, we can’t even say that. In most of our childhoods, we can’t even say, “When was I okay for five minutes in my consciousness?”

From A Conversation with Ocean Vuong on Being Generous in Your Work in The Creative Independent


Ramadan Day 2 – I’m Too Hungry to Feed the Pain

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“The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.” – marie condo, the life-changing magic of tidying up


Today, like so many, I have a fasting headache. It started at around 4:30 or so in the morning right after I prayed and made some (half-ass…) dua. My sister texted me and asked me for a conversation. It was way too early for her to be texting me. I’m the only one in my family who observes Ramzan.
I’m praying, I texted. Are you okay?
Yes, she replied. How long are you going to pray?
When we finally spoke, she felt that I’d been rude to her. It was causing her some anxiety, she said, to have to address this with me.
Within minutes what started as a desire to get clarity and to ask to be treated in a way she felt she deserved — became an all-out telephone war, loud and brutal, with various accusations around how much we care for each other. By the time we hung up, nothing was resolved, and everything felt difficult and angry. Things were definitely somebody’s fault, but between my thirst and the anvil getting smacked on in my head, I wasn’t sure who was up and who was down.
I can’t deal with this right now, I said, as we ended the call.


I know it’s twisted, but there’s something really wonderful about fighting during Ramadan if you accept the premise that the fighting happened. Yeah, you could have saved the fight for another day. Or, you could just bite your tongue out of respect for the fast. But, hey a fight’s a fight.
Usually I feel so terrible after a fight that I can’t function because my emotions are at high tide. However, after this fight, I promptly went to sleep, and when I woke up, I knew that I didn’t have the energy to continue the fight. I knew that the fight would be waiting for me to deal with it later. I knew that the fight didn’t matter as much as keeping my fas. Plus, that pounding headache that required my attention.
I asked myself what the most important thing was for me to do, and the answer came at me with a chime: go to IKEA with my brother and get a desk.
So that’s what I did.
Fasting requires you to conserve energy and to do only what is truly important to you. This argument was a test. I wanted a wonderful, peaceful Ramadan without any difficulty. Instead, I made it through one day and then ended up in an argument.


There’s nothing quite so terrible as conflict with your family. It’s like the yardstick by which you can measure every other conflict. I know homies that are chill as all get out, but the second their mother asks them to do something or criticizes their appearance or tells them to change something up, it’s like nuclear meltdown rage. Or if their brother or sister makes some rude comment, the response is nothing less than a summit about whether or not you ever truly respected one another. Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Zero to 100 – family fights are like the porsche roadsters of the road.


Family trouble is ubiquitous. Nobody is immune. Least of all me.
The closer I get to a friend or lover, the more aware I am of how the ways in which they fight (or don’t fight) with their family influences how they deal with difficulty toward me. This doesn’t mean that everybody closely follows the pattern of their parent(s) conflict orientation style. It only means that people sometimes bring their whole history into any fight they have with you, and sometimes they’re trying to correct for that history. Sometimes they’re over-correcting for that history. So they’re like standing up to you in a way that isn’t actually about the fight that you’re having. If you call them out on it, then usually you’re screwed. Nobody likes to be patronized.


During my MFA program, I was angry at this white guy in my program who was, at the time, a dear friend. Marky Mark was the kind of person for whom the word ally was a label or a reward, but when it came to actually standing up to racism, he didn’t have the backbone. He had his reasons, but he wasn’t really the kind of guy who liked to fight.
I was hurt for a while when some racist shit happened in one of my workshops, and he wasn’t able to provide support. We tried but couldn’t move through our differences.

I remember Amadeus, a freakin amazing poet, taking me aside and saying why are you taking his failure so personally? It got a bit heated because I thought Amadeus was full of shit. I said, I’m taking it so personally because if he really loved me, then he wouldn’t constantly be fronting that he was some kind of conscious activist type and then hanging me out to dry when people are like writing that Asian women are delicate lotus flowers they’d like to fuck.
It’s kind of selfish, Amadeus said, to take people’s failings personally. It’s not about you. It’s definitely not about whether or not they care about you. You could make an argument that people never do anything except to meet their own needs and that nobody’s behavior is ever about you.
And as we ventured back and forth into our philosophies of behavior, I caught onto the simple truth about why, so often, I fight with people in my life. Because I’m not sure they really love me.


Because I’m not sure they really love me. 


Fighting during Ramadan strips away so much of my pretense — and leaves me feeling vulnerable. I don’t have the energy to throw up all the defensiveness that is usually there for me. Mind you – my sister and I fought right after Suhoor, when I’d just begun the fast.
Ramadan leaves me present with my pain, but it also makes the pain more manageable because I have a distance from it.

As my brother and I walked up and down the aisles searching for a desk, I could barely concentrate on walking or what had just been said to me. I definitely didn’t have the energy to revisit my fight with my sister.

Pain, I realized, has an energy of its own, and it requires food and water in a way that I don’t. That seems like a funny thing to say, but that’s what I learned today as I was fighting with my sister — that my anger and feelings aren’t necessarily the things that should govern me. That I need a space to move through them that doesn’t feed them. That when I fast I’m not only abstaining from water and food, I’m abstaining from delivering my limited energy to my conflicts.


Faith
Tim Seibles

Picture a city
and the survivors: from their
windows, some scream. Others
walk the aftermath: blood
and still more blood coming
from the mouth of a girl.

This is the same movie
playing all over
the world: starring everybody
who ends up where the action
is: lights, cameras, close-ups—that
used to be somebody’s leg.

Let’s stop talking
about God. Try to shut-up
about heaven: some of our friends
who should be alive are no longer alive.
Moment by moment death moves
and memory doesn’t remember,

not for long: even today—even
having said
this, even knowing that
someone is stealing
our lives—I still
had lunch.

Tell the truth. If you can.
Does it matter who they were,
the bodies in the rubble: could it matter

that the girl was conceived by two people
buried in each other’s arms, believing
completely in the world between them?

The commanders are ready. The gunners
go everywhere. Almost all of them
believe in God. But somebody should

hold a note for the Earth,
a few words for whatever being

human could mean
beneath the forgotten sky:

some day one night,
when the city lights go out for good,

you won’t believe how many stars

 

 

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