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Over at Nineteen Months (the site that I founded and now run with my friend Caitlin), we had 19 day project of words from various authors about the Baha’i Fast, and Caitlin organized it all. She put it together in a PDF for everyone to enjoy: A Fast Word: The Anthology.
The poem that I contributed:
My Mother’s Hands
My hands do not yet look like my mother’s hands
but they are starting to move in the same ways
and express themselves on their own.
When I pour coffee early in the morning
my hands cradle the cup
and I view the skyline of my home.
Dawn comes in little pieces
the tests come in waves
each chasing the other.
my daughter, my daughter…
never let the conventional wisdom
of the masses fool you into complacency
when it comes to the sacredness of your body and your soul
my sister, my sister…
your experiences in life are yours
they are true things and they created you
society will tell you that you imagined things
or that it is ok for you to be an object
my mother, my mother…
all of the mothers in the world are you
when there is some cruelty
your arms shield and hold and are battered and bruised
from fighting for your children
my friend, my friend…
raise your girls and boys to be without fear
and to love with every piece of their heart
raise them to recognize injustice
to scream when it rears its ugly head
my brother, my brother…
listen to your sister, your daughter, your mother
stand up to speak
when she is weary of speaking another word
because even the strongest child
do not dwell on this darkness
this depth of winter in the heart
there is such wonder on the other side of it
do not hold on with shaking hands and screaming heart
there is no redemption there.
the chilling grief that held you in place
the betrayal of your work was only one thing
yet you can be now.
trust in the certainty that this was right.
there is a perfect moment of silent bliss
when my head falls to your shoulder
and the train shudders on the track
and the world stands still for us
when you surprise me with the tiniest thing
tell me to close my eyes
and I know you remember.
we made it this far
(I have no idea where the time went)
half a trip around the sun.
Don’t look too closely at the mirror
Shy away from the picking and the choosing
The farewell sighs of youth
We cry and wail at the slightest things
We look so closely and then we fall
Don’t look so closely at the mirror
A focus on self, a focus on wealth and dreams
We look so closely and then we seem
Write instead about the powerful, the lonesome days
Stalk the inner self that hides and bring it into light
Bring it kicking and screaming if you have to.
I have never felt a greater need for silence than right now.
A great need to bury myself in a cocoon of books and tea,
I dream of warm sunlit beaches and time between us.
I wanted to write a story about everything
the pieces of days taking over
the peaceful nights where your voice keeps me going
how quickly time passes
and how very little time has passed.
We are building up moments to hide away for later
for sleepless nights or long days.
I want to write the story
about the things we cannot guess…
we are an entire generation
we are here to serve, to work, to strive
we are silenced
we raise our hands to voice concern
we raise our voices to fight injustice
we are silenced
our brothers and sisters are imprisoned
we are here, in a prison which should not exist
in a place that should be joyful
and we are silenced.
I will still fight this battle.
she is watching the ground rushing toward her, a free-fall of joyful absolution.
she is wrapped in trust.
she is watching with her eyes closed.
once there was a story in her head about the possibilities
and then time took over, life sped ahead and the story became empty
these are days when each moment is held apart, shining, and she wants to remember everything. her memory can’t hold every look, every time her breath caught from joy. nothing is perfect, and everything makes her happy.
she never knew but always hoped.
I can’t stop thinking that this is something I should pay attention to. I haven’t written in what seems like years…thought it was because I was happy but happiness doesn’t stop the flow of words that spill out of me in a roaring cacophony.
I was silent for far too long.
I have been dreaming the strangest things, some are far too dark to share and some are far too sweet to bare to the world…
I will just tease you with the promise of things to come and the fact that I am dreaming again after far too long and that my silence right now only means that there are moments to be shared with the ones I love.
Standing on stages was something I did when I was 19 and fearless. 22 and alive in a city that was far too big for me and now it is far too small. Now I am 29 and standing on stages is something that seems normal, but the stages are different and the people are more jaded and the city is too small and cold to contain me.
Let us escape together, we will build things and explore, sleep in the sun and leap across mountains. Words will leap off our tongues and we can laugh again, and we won’t wait for life to happen to us.
A friend shared this poem by Baha’u’llah with me, which I had never heard, and I wanted to post it here.
The following was told by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the friends at Abu-Sinan in 1915.
Whilst at Baghdad many learned mullas and others came into the Holy Presence, several of whom became His devoted friends; one of those was Kayvan Mirza, grandson of Fath-‘Ali Shah. This gentleman came and asked Mirza Muhit to obtain permission for an audience at some midnight in secret.
The reply was:
“When I was in the wilderness of Kurdistan I composed this poem:
If thou hast in thine heart one desire for thy life, then come not hither!
But shouldst thou be prepared to sacrifice soul, and heart and life,
come and bring others!
Such is the path if thou desire to enter the Kingdom of Light,
If thou art not of those able to walk this path —
Begone, and trouble us not!
Mirza Muhit conveyed this reply to Kayvan Mirza. He chose to “Begone,” his heart failed him!
(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway, p. 55)
so sweet and quiet. i’ll take the mosquitoes at dusk and the green grass, the park as the sun sets. i will close my eyes as the waves wash over me…i can’t look straight at the sun.
i’ll take starlit nights, laughter, and peace. i’ll let the honesty and the fear stand in their place, they will act as they are needed.
i will take these things and place them in the parts of my soul that are trying to be brave and happy.
the windows are open
i can taste the rain and the heavy air is weighing on me
so close to everything and yet…
everything is a dream now.
i am not sure if i welcome the rain or not. the pressure sinks into my slowly beating heart, my tired eyes and soul. i embrace the clean mist that sweeps away this dust that is holding me back, and the thunderstorms that i can scream into. there are the empty moments that we filled and now my hands try to stay busy alone. there are miles and oceans to come, but nothing is real.
the storm has stopped now, the raging into the night leaves me drained.
Starting this, I am walking down a new path
we once dreamed of this freedom
this chance to begin again.
To step outside ourselves
look down to where our feet touch the ground
keep them moving and remember the stories.
We whispered in our blanket forts and beneath the trees,
ice cream Sundays (and Mondays and Tuesdays)
and childhood dreams
If the photographs captured perfectly
the sight would be of every day,
when you look at me in this perfect way.
I stopped writing because it is so difficult to describe happiness with words. It just is. I will wander through an entire forest and the memory I am left with is just a snapshot of when we ran from mosquitos. I will climb a sand dune and am remembering standing on top of the world with you as I gasp from a lack of exercise and oxygen. I will walk through a city and I see brick walls with numbers on them. I will hold onto every quiet moment because that is where the foundation lives. I can’t remember not knowing you.
I found this old post from December 10, 2003, and it made me smile, remembering the college days and how very horrible I was at test-taking (and apparently at writing odes). I don’t know why I put it in the drafts, because obviously it was published at some point, so I’m putting it back out there.
Accounting was atrocious
as it had the right to be
a horrible subject
it enjoyed torturing me
History was turned in
with absolutely no fuss
I quite enjoyed the class
I felt like such a genius
Management was tedious
but open-note tests do help
someone wanted me to sit with them
so they let out a yelp
All that is left is now Mathematics
statistics just kill me
probability gives me headaches
in this class there is no mercy
So wish me luck
my dear friends
as I study insanely
and pray for the end.
I can almost feel the soft summer
there is a murmur, a promise in our words
we can plan and scheme and the whole world sees
but mostly it is just between you and me.
One day we will be wrapped in blue skies,
once in a blue moon we’ll be stepping
through cherry blossom trees.
I almost forgot to write it all down
I almost told them all before I told you
every secret in my heart,
I almost fell asleep wrapped in black velvet dreams.
Our hearts are dipped in fine fiery lines
in steady beats amidst the echoes,
the simplest thing at the perfect time.
She hasn’t heard your voice in years and years
the softly whispered tones
She had enough of the lovely tears
and every night alone.
She hasn’t slept with peaceful dreams
there has not been a moment’s rest
She struggled with the lonely schemes
and the multitude of tests.
Once she saw the shadowed skies
in blue and black and white
She saw the settled lies
in such a different light.
I am only writing in my head.
The words stop at my lips,
stop at the line that separates
my tongue from the air of the world
and I stop.
come on now
We’re sleeping on our feet
trust me, there is more than this!
I am writing everyone I know a letter.
Real paper, the kind that can cut you
and soothe as you hold the pieces in your hands.
If only the words would come
the right words that make you understand
start. stop. stuttering.
my heart crashes into the pit of my stomach
I might forget for 5 minutes, or an hour, and then it all rushes back.
in circular thought I spin
in dreams we claw through mud as thick as limbo
as thick of the loss of hope
trapped inside my head
the words struggle to be heard
understood without meaning
oh the wasted years
the wasted tears
the forever dreams and joy…
after the storm is this, the lingering headache and colors
I run through the thundering waters
the sky’s tears, the sky’s laughter
the steady beat tapping out
too soon subsiding in exhaustion.
wait, wait! In every tiny reflection, in every color
we wait, wait with every breath held back
my feverish pen halts, my feverish thoughts dim
hold hands up to the storm
fingers intertwined, in sudden silence.
I saw the sky on fire through my kitchen window tonight, and grabbed my camera. The wind had died to nothing, the world was silent, and the clouds were running away. What beauty!
the strings are slipping round
we passed by the dreaming trees
and the childhood things.
stepping down from palaces
in daylight the world is harsher
the words we say are the way it is
we’re in denial without basic sentences.
we waited by the sideline seats
ghosts of the irony
waited there, haunting me
we’re in silent motion here.
I am still here.
In silence with the water forming lakes around my boots,
with the golden red leaves forming islands around my feet.
I am…in a few places at once.
With tall buildings, cold people, fascinating streets
(that dream is farther away now, diminishing every week).
In warm sunshine where we bowed our heads
always, always among the cool stone and cypress trees
(I will never leave)
Among these people, this place, my home, the familiar roads
at first, breathless, dormant, unmoving
this is where I should be.
It seems like there is almost a reaching toward
a not quite there feeling…
we’re staring off into the distance, hoping for an answer.
really, I was floating in this dream
a soft, sunny place that reflected my heart
and we drifted so far out that I lost my balance
and you lost your focus
A conversation between them is always starting with:
“Hello, you are my friend, I have always wanted to meet you.”
“I know, this is why we are here. To meet.”
“We can’t go very far if you always know what I think.”
“It doesn’t matter, knowing what you think just makes it better.
“Please, please sit down, you’re making me dizzy.”
(I leave in the morning for work-related travel. Maybe I will see new and inspiring things to bring back to all of you.)
I wait in silence as they whisper
a thousand shouting voices drowning out
the sounds of every love they have ever known
I wait in heartbeats as they plunder
the only things of worth they have ever owned
And in my silence is acceptance
of the fiery ways that steer us on
In my dreams I see you standing
silent, true, tall and strong
There is no distance I can travel
that takes me further away from you
The words we wrote, the moments stilled
the tears I never cried
There is so much beauty in all of this
and yet we never tried
Can we keep a million secrets
of the times we never shared?
How can we sleep in peace forever
knowing that this is all we had?
This is for the never was,
and all it could have been
This is for the future children
and the moments born within
This is for every second
I never knew was real
This is for all the times I never told you
how it is I truly feel
for in your eyes a thousand stars stared down at me
the world spun around the clouds in a perfect sky
with a perfect sea and you all around me
time slipped through, down and never existed
time waited, stopped, and counted
the breaths we took, the tears and smiles
the silent prayers, the laughter over coffee
the ocean, the paths, the stones
watched our meandering ways
with angels over our shoulders
every lost moment before
every lost moment since
tallied up in letters and thought
in the dreams of could have been
This is not what I wanted
(words against the walls of my heart, burrowed under my skin)
I am trying and failing and trying…
I am strong until I come up against you
and I fail.
I fail to be silent in the right places
I fail to speak the right words.
I cannot reach the space where we are speaking the same language and can spend one day without this battle turning into a war. There is no space for both of our words, and the pain we hold onto, and the
silence is better than anything.
My tears are all dried, my eyes heavy and the weight on my shoulders has added to itself, without even trying. I speak in whispers so that the still moments are not broken and that maybe tonight we will sleep, even though we know that there are too many things left in the barricades between our minds and our hearts.
Mostly, I do not understand.
Stars, you are unfortunate, I pity you,
Beautiful as you are, shining in your glory,
Who guide seafaring men through stress and peril
And have no recompense from gods or mortals,
Love you do not, nor do you know what love is.
Hours that are aeons urgently conducting
Your figures in a dance through the vast heaven,
What journey have you ended in this moment,
Since lingering in the arms of my beloved
I lost all memory of you and midnight.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I thought that those whispered words were enough,
that we could always eat blueberries at sunset
and our stories would sustain us.
you found me and lost me in moments
in between secrets and the alarm clock in the morning
maybe it was just not the right definition of perfect.
Today I smiled because of the cold air and because there is no reason not to smile. The snow still falls and everything still happens just like it should. I am still in love with the details of life and the grand plans of the universe and the way that a silk dress moves. I am this beautiful creation of power and movement and smallness and infinite everything (and so are all of you). My hands will hold children someday, my eyes will let down tears in the most heartbreaking way when I hear the right kind of music, my legs will carry me to distant lands, my mind will learn and teach, and my heart…oh, my heart will love and love and love (just like it always has).
I will and I am and there is something to be said for the silent moments at 3 am, something to be dreamt in the ways that right now holds meaning even if the stories are still being written, bound in books with glossy gold letters and the paper smell that good books are required by law to retain.