Return of the Friend

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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~ From Mohja Kahf’s unpublished love poetry manuscript written in 1999.

(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

(Photo by Russell Cothran, courtesy of University of Arkansas Public Relations Office.)

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.”