The Ides of March
--(or how girl can write her way to a new life)
Last week, snow and ice kept me housebound for the third, and hopefully final time, this winter. This snowfall felt different than the previous ones. It arrived glutinous and sticky and carried a surreal sheen of pristine clean. It seemed that nature had saved the most beautiful display for the last seasonal flurry. I felt that it was sent just for me.
The ice weighed down trees until many limbs plummeted to the earth, as if set free from unspecified burdens. As temperatures rose throughout the day, a glorious soundscape ensued. Imagine a cacophony of dripping and flowing water, the hum of melting snow and cracking limbs, and birds already praising the spring weather that would arrive the next day. It was like a grand tick-tock of a celestial clock, all gears grinding in full glory to mark the end of the year’s darker half.
In less than twenty-four hours, the final winter snow would be in gallant retreat. Along with it would go the last remaining moments of my old self. I stood in my doorway and listened to nature’s majestic regulator. It is now time, I heard this voice say from somewhere deep, to finally let go of your old life.
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~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.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.”
The Real Ones
Something happened in the development sector
Something we forgot
Something we should have known
That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To scribble new thoughts, new words, new ways of living
Over their faces
That humans aren’t blank slates
Awaiting our arrival
To draw them anew and say
Now you know
How to live, how to think, how to behave
Now you have rights
We don’t walk into empty fields, we don’t walk into barren lands,
We don’t walk in with the only ploughs, we didn’t create the only hoes
The earth laughs, but not for us
The earth … she laughs at us
We are not her only children, we are not the only ones
We walk into communities that wrested life from an alien land
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“‘I love you’ scares me,” he admitted, looking nervous. “I’m not sure I know what it even means.”
I sighed with exasperation. It means everything, I thought. You could paraphrase it as I see you. Better yet, I read you. There’s nothing else important to say, really.
I didn’t become a hopeful romantic because of rom-coms or Disney. I grew up without a television in a progressive household, and though my parents have a marriage suitable for any American dream story, I was raised to be an independent thinker. My parents turned gender roles on their heads and upended social norms about race and consumerism without ever uttering words like “feminism” and “capitalism.” Without a TV, books were my first love. Saturdays at the library were the highlight of my week as a child, where I’d pile volume after volume into stacks so tall I could barely carry them. I’d drag them home and arrange them beside my bed in order of decreasing appeal, so the book that most excited me was on top of the pile, ready for me to grab when I woke up on Sunday morning to start my day by reading.
I have a problem with Jerry Maguire. It’s got nothing to do with Tom Cruise’s toothy grin or with the fact that I can’t watch Renee Zellweger without thinking of her character in Empire Records.
I take issue with one of the most famous lines from the film:
“You complete me.”
People, can we just stop for a minute. Not only does he say it, but then apparently there was never any need for him to say it because he had Renee Zellweger at “hello.”
For many people, this is one of the most romantic lines ever uttered on film or television. But to me, the concept of two people completing one another – of two people being only half of themselves until this magical, mythical other piece comes into play – seems flawed. Love is diverse and takes many forms: straight or gay, monogamous or polyamorous, bicultural or biracial, intercultural or heck, maybe in the not-so-distant future, inter-lovotic. But one thing, I feel, holds true: the best kind of love is having one complete person come together with another complete person. Because though they may enhance each other’s lives, true completion comes from within.