Return of the Friend I had not expected love but it surprised, like the slip of arm around my waist I had expected chiding, but your eyes spoke only kindness, like your face Tulips by the road, the burst of red— I drew my breath as your bus rounded the bend Pink rose in lime green tissue, then your tread, and the slip of arm around my waist Years dissolve between us in this place, and I exhale. I had expected questions, quizzing, an exchange, a taxing gaze, not acceptance freely given, your embrace I had not expected love
~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.
Mohja Kahf is a Syrian-American poet and novelist. Her first collection of poetry, E-mails from Scheherazad, evokes the mixture of pride and shame involved in being an “other,” with characters balancing on the line between assimilating and maintaining the habits of a good Muslim. In addition to contemporary Muslim women, Mohja’s poetry also explores figures from Islamic history including Hagar, the wife of the prophet Abraham, Khadija and Aisha, wives of the Prophet Muhammad, and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. According to The New York Times, her writing on contemporary subjects “draws sharp, funny, earthy portraits of the fault line separating Muslim women from their Western counterparts.” Of the intersection of Islam and art, Mohja says: “One of the primary messages of the Qur’an is that people should recognize the beautiful and do what is beautiful. This is not simply a moral beauty but a visual and auditory beauty as well. Conduct should be beautiful, writing should be beautiful and speaking should be beautiful.”
Sometimes, you run into a good thing and you want to share it with everyone.
Deonna Kelli Sayed recently attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference, and kept noticing one attendee who drew during all the sessions. “Hey,” she said, “Your stuff is good. Would you like to create some original work for Love, Inshallah?”
Alex Irish, an aspiring and talented media artist, agreed to gift LoveInshallah with original art. In homage to resident Geek girl Zainab Chaudary and wonderful posts by Ali Mattu, Alex took took on LoveInshallah’s core theme — love!
Love is grand. Love is transformative. The experience belongs to everyone, regardless of body shape, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or wealth. No special or magical skills are required. Alex nailed it:
What a perfect sentiment for Friday Love.
Thank you, Alex, for sharing your talent with us. May the Force be with you!
Alex Irish is an aspiring media artist. When he’s not illustrating and sketching cartoons, he writes for The PlayStation Game Blog and IGN. Visit here to look at his animation and art, here to read his blog on Hollywood animation and design, and here for his Playstation musings.
For an hour in the morning and another in the evening, I have the distinct honor of riding the BART to work. I wisely spend that time answering work emails, reading food blogs, and scrolling through Instagram. Oh, and I people watch because golly, the most “interesting” things happen on BART. Like the time a Paris Hilton look-alike demanded a separate seat for her tiny chihuahua on the crushingly crowded morning commute where people have lost limbs trying to score the last seat. Oh, or the time some guy thought he was Kanye West’s double and insisted on rapping the whole way. Leather pants and all.
But aside from the BART characters, the overwhelmingly majority of people have a glazed expression on their faces as they stare at their phones or in the distance. More often than not, the air is rife with a general apathy (and the smell of old laundry). Occasionally, someone will get on with a laughing baby and no one will look up. Or an elderly person will get on and no one will bother to offer a seat. It’s truly apathy at its finest and that nothingness is so much worse than actual anger or malice because being malicious requires some effort. Some thought. But to do nothing is an indication that you just don’t care and that is truly concerning.
My son loves running around in circles. I mean that literally. He’ll grab a favorite hat or bear and sing and dance while running in circles through the house. As great as he finds it, I personally do not like running around in circles. And yet this is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past three months with my insurance company. Due to an error on their end, my son’s claim did not get processed properly, leaving us to foot the bill. They acknowledge their error, advise us to do XYZ, and then weeks later, say whoops! We were supposed to actually do ABC, and then we run in circles again once more.
It’s not the end of the world. Sure, I’d rather spend the money on a nice outfit and some shoes. Or a lavish meal at a fufu steakhouse. Or fifteen orders of Vietnamese Pho. But at the end of the day, worst case scenario, if we have to pay it, the sky will not collapse upon our heads. It’s just frustrating. Unfairness is frustrating. Being on the phone with a squirmy baby, a hollering toddler belting out twinkle twinkle little star with the intensity paralleled only by a Metallica concert, while getting transferred from department to department until I’m back where I started – I might as well have had a conversation with my bathroom mirror for all the good this did me. Not a fun way to start off my morning.
I know some people are naturally centered and calm in the face of stresses both big and small, but I remain a work-in-progress as my natural inclination is to feel a hard knot of frustration building in my chest that even twenty-five koala bears doing incredibly cute things like chewing bamboo shoots while batting their eyes could not properly diffuse. And the problem with the frustration isn’t the frustrating thing itself, but the domino effect it can have on a day.
I often wonder about love after death.
After the bodies are buried, janazas are done, and people become memories – how do we love souls then? Is it in the past, like a faded memory? Does loving end when the grief ends? Can we continue to love, and have our lives shaped by that love, after the person is gone? What if…. they never actually really leave? How do we love through transitions into the hereafter?
This past July, I went to South Asia to caretake (“babysit”) my maternal grandfather for a couple of weeks while my aunt was out of town on business. He was a strong, tall, gregarious man, always the center of attention. He had just had his 86th birthday, and aging had taken its toll after the recent deaths of my Nani and two years later, my Ammu.