Ordinary stones

I took the hand as it slid the night’s noose over
my reason, my ordinary

Stone     –     I took my boat as sign and I sank
over and over till I knew

Not I not Her     –     this is my black of perish, my
shore of contemplation –

Then He made me contemplate what is above taking, and I saw the Hand. Then the Green Sea poured forth between the Hand and me. I became immersed in it and I saw a tablet. I climbed onto it and [like that] I was saved, since had it not been for [the tablet], I would have perished.

Then the Hand appeared, and behold! the Hand was serving as the shore of that sea, upon which the boats sailed until they arrived at the shore. When they reached it, the Hand pushed them along to a deserted place. The owners of the boats disembarked carrying with them pearls, jewels and coral; but as soon as they stepped onto dry land, these all turned into ordinary stones.

– Ibn al-Arabi, Mashahid al Asrar (contemplation of the holy mysteries)

Wordsmithing Saudade

A wistfulness that dare not name
its wist     an

unlonging uprooted with such force
you forget to

forget and long for the unlonged for –
get to the

nub of that which never happened     the
woolly womb

of the wound –

Mun brought up the word ‘Saudade’ while talking of hard-to-pin-down emotions and the dictionary of obscure sorrows.

There is definite wordsmithing in all of this, so I thought of writing my own take on Saudade. Because the words are there, the emotion is there (or is it?), and we can play.

what goes missing

A resonant bone
lip of rust      the bare trill of a murmorous battle

A resonant bone
tip of musk      the flame of a languored blade —

What goes missing: the heart of hear or the
                                    bus of reckon? what goes

the way of rust: the fall of petalled metal or
                             my sense of nail, of water?

An unhandsome toil

Here are poetic tangents – mine with Lorde’s and Rukeyser’s – to a podcast I heard last night: a tribute paid to Eqbal Ahmad by his friend, Edward Said. Said contrasted his personal ‘filiation’ with his ‘affiliation’ in relation to Ahmad and the world of idea(l)s, Ahmad’s unceasing commitment to the creative versus mere politics, his fiery exhortations rooted in peace, and the sacrifice one has to make in pursuit of love (justice by any other name).

To engage what is true with what is most

It's the moor to an unhandsome
     the imperfect
     the stone
it's the moor to loveless anchor   blanched in
      yellow   in-&
      out of tune

It’s compensation for kin with what is most

"I say across the waves of the air
to you:
     today once more 
     I will try to be 
non-violent one more day this morning, waking the world
     away in the 
     violent day"1

To once more blur imagination with what is most

"Disrobed need shrieks through the nearby
     a brown sloe-eyed 
     boy picks blotches 
from his face, eyes my purse shivering 
     white dust a holy 
     fire in his blood"2

1. from “Waking This Morning” – Muriel Rukeyser
2. from “The Politics of Addiction” – Audre Lorde
I have taken the liberty of changing the line breaks in the two excerpts above.

The Kai’ku: a brief what-when of the “but-why?”

bleed slowly through your dreams
the visage is heaviest when the shadow
pierces your masks –

The above is a specimen of a Kai’ku, a lesser known poetic form where the rule is, “aim for a certain number of syllables; if you get it, it’s ok, and if you don’t, then no need to sweat your syllable tree!”

Kai’ku, loosely translated in the Indo-Pakian as “but why?”, is said to have been disemminated by a handful of lesser-known – this is key – mystics going about their un-enlit ways around about the same time as an enlit guy called bodhidharma was bordercrossing Indo-China.

In another account, the origins of Kai’ku have been linked roughly with the time when another enlit – laotsu – bordercrossed, and the gatekeeper requested him to write a little something. Kaikuans would have been least bothered by such inane requests, so this account is less tenable.

Palestine: Fadwa Tuqan’s poems and data on women’s education

And here is my second attempt at bridging the three areas: poems, justice and data visualization. This time, it’s the Palestinian poet, Fadwa Tuqan, whose poems I have highlighted alongside some charts depicting the progress over the years on a number of women’s education indicators in the West Bank and Gaza.

(Earlier, I had used Audre Lorde and Muriel Rukeyser’s poems with gender data.)

One of the intentions of this exercise is to confound the categories: poetry and data. Of all things, it makes the least sense to compartmentalize poetry. Another thing I am attempting is calling out the patriarchal biases everywhere esp. when it comes to social justice where it again makes least sense. So in the case of poetry from Palestine, it is generally the males – esp. Mahmoud Darwish – who seem to stand in for all Palestinian poetry. The poems here by Fadwa Tuqan stand to correct this imbalance. Also, the indicators on women’s education in the West Bank and Gaza are quite encouraging.