Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.
I’m so tired of constantly feeling so tired – I don’t sleep enough, I fall asleep holding books I once could have finished reading in a single day, I sleep crookedly, and my neck has been aching for over a week. Also, there’s that drama that enters my head once in a while: “Am I doing constructive things with my life? Let’s switch it up again!” Clearly, I am my father’s daughter, bored too easily and always wanting change. And yet, too much standing still while questioning my next step, mired once again in indecisiveness and lack of direction.
It’s too easy to get lost in progress, or lack thereof, so here are three beautiful things to remember from last week:
Poetry reading by Mohja Kahf at the Arab Cultural & Community Center in San Francisco last Monday. It was a wonderful evening, not in the least because I got to see the beautiful ladies, Momo and Baraka, again. And also because Mohja Kahf is hilarious, and that must have been the first time I laughed so much at a poetry reading. She writes candidly about topics such as sexuality and motherhood in a way that’s quite refreshing, as is her take on historical figures that become more approachable and human through her poetry – Asiya, the Pharaoh’s wife, sitting with her husband at a table of Neo-Cons; Asiya written up in the tabloids, dismissed as “crazy.” I picked up copies of Mohja’s poetry collection, E-Mails from Scheherazad, as well as her new novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and asked if she could sign my sister’s copy of E-Mails from Scheherazad: “I’ve been specifically instructed to tell you that you’re her favorite poet.”
“Ooh, instructed,” she laughed. “Should I add some exclamation points to my signature?” And so, she did.
While I was waiting in line for the books, one of the women on the ACCC staff asked, “Do you write poetry?”
“No,” I said hurriedly, thinking she had confused me for RC, one of our rockstar Muslimah spoken word poets here in the Bay. (It wouldn’t be the first time; I think it’s the headwrap that confuses people.)
“You should,” she said. “We’re trying to organize some more poetry events here at the ACCC, and we’d love for more young people to participate.” She wrote down her name and email address for me.
I remembered how, the week before at the Poetry for the People reading at UC Berkeley, D had asked the same question, “Do you write poetry, too?”
“Ehh, no,” I said. “I only write maybe one poem a year, when I’m forced to.”
“But they’re always such good poems!” interjected my sister.
The day after the Mohja Kahf reading, my buddy A harassed me about my refusal to participate in the open mic at Blue Monkey, too: “Only losers don’t do poetry readings at an open mic.”
So now, apparently, I need to write more often.
Writing travels the world: Maliha’s beautiful essay, Necessary silence of being made its way to me not only via Blogistan, but also through an email listserve I’m subscribed to. I emailed her to let her know, and received the following reply:
I’ve been lurking around your site and wish you, missy, will take a break from all the messy and beautiful chaos around you, to write a bit more. But with spring weather finally here, and the greys and storms dissipated, I totally don’t blame you for sweeping specks of sun rays rather than blog.
So, there we go, another reminder to write more often, from the beautiful lady who excels at it. It’s too bad that, as I explained to Maliha, writing these days means, for me, too many incomplete posts saved as drafts, and too many scribbled bullet-points in my little moleskine notebook that need to be turned into real posts. And, yet, my buddy Z exclaims: “How did you blog so soon after the last one? How do you have enough material?” It’s not for lack of stories, clearly.
Explanation of the photo that accompanies this post: Ayesha my love and I canceled our dinner plans last Thursday, so I was left with a free evening, and was actually rather looking forward to being able to go straight home from work.
But then: “Come over to my place for dinner!” said R.
“Who else is going to be there?” I asked warily. I was not in the mood to socialize with people.
“Me!” said the co-worker-in-crime, B.
“Just us,” assured R.
“It’s not some fancy-schmancy thing, is it?” I asked. ” ‘Cause I won’t be able to stand it.”
“Not at all!”
So, I went over to her apartment in Fremont after work. We had dinner, and then it was time for maghrib, the evening prayer. There was no awkward questioning: Will you be praying? Will you not? Should we wait for you? Instead, it was all so matter-of-fact: Here’s a rug; the bathroom’s at the end of the hall; I have an extra scarf, if you need it. I appreciated the straightforwardness – needed it, in fact.
R pulled out a prayer rug for me to use – it was short and narrow and golden-yellow, the perfect size for my frame, and something about the beauty of it moved me nearly to tears as I was praying. When I sat cross-legged afterward, hands raised in supplication, my knees jutted over the sides of the slender rug. It had been so long since I had prayed (much less, regularly), and there was something bittersweet – ridiculous and yet so fitting – about the fact that a yellow sunshine-colored rug made me want to pray more often.
“What are you doing?” asked R, after I had finished praying and was still kneeling on the floor.
“Taking pictures of your rug,” I said.
“Because it’s so pretty!”
“And what are you going to do with the pictures?” she asked, puzzled.
I almost replied, Put them up on flickr for the world to see, but said instead, “I’ll look at them!”
She rolled her eyes, picked up the prayer rug off the floor, folded it swiftly, and placed it on top of my purse. “Here. You can have it. Now you can look at it all the time.”
I hadn’t expected this, but I was too giddy with quiet delight to politely question her decision with, Are you SURE?
We sat around afterward, drinking mint tea (okay, I just experimentally sipped a little bit of it; “Will you be offended if I don’t drink this?” I asked R and her roommate L, but they assured me they would not be). “That’s fresh mint from Zaytuna,” L said proudly.
I nearly choked on laughter. “Were you skulking around Zaytuna, picking mint leaves in the dark?” Indeed, she had been. She also shared stories of living in Kuwait and Los Angeles. B and I were fascinated by her Kuwaiti/Lebanese/Hungarian heritage, so L brought out her laptop and began showing us photos.
“Dude,” I said, “these are beautiful pictures. You really need to get a flickr account and upload these.”
“I do have flickr!” she said. Oh, internet, how I love you. L went back to her room, and returned with her camera. She and I sat there scrolling through her photos, while R and B just shook their heads – especially when I started taking photos of the tea-glasses again.
B made fun of us: “Yasmine’s going to come to work one day and say, ‘I quit! I’m leaving to become a professional photographer!’ ”
She needs to stop giving me ideas.