It’s Ramadan, right in the middle just past the full moon. In honor of this sacred month, I’d like to offer brief poetry excerpts, one from Palestinian-American, Suheir Hammad b. 1973, and the other from Delhi, India: poet Mirza Ghalib d. 1869.
“mike check” by Suheir Hammad, from her book Zaatar Diva.
one two one two can you/
hear me mike check one two/
my bags at the air/
port in a random/
I understand it was/
folks who looked smelled/
maybe prayed like me/~
can you hear me mike/
ruddy blond buzz/
cut with corn flower/
eyes and a cross/
round your neck/~
Ever since she came out with the defining poetic moment of 9/11, “First Words Since,” and combined spoken word and the best of word-smithing, ever since I saw and heard her read at The Dodge Poetry Fest nearly a decade ago, I have been a Suheir fan. Catch “mike check” on You Tube –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_q11Nnba3iQ
“post zionism” by Suheir Hammad, from her book Zaatar Diva
my mother has always been/
plaiting hair untangling grape/
leaves preparing plates/
of mahshi between prayers/
and sharpening machetes…/~
Then there is Mirza Ghalib. Robert Bly in his book, The Winged Energy of Delight, describes him as “ …roguish, a breaker of religious norms, a connoisseur of sorrow, and a genius.”
“Questions” translated by Bobert Bly
Since nothing actually exists except you,/
Then why do I keep hearing all this noise?/~
These magnificent women with their beauty astound me./
Their side glances, their eyebrows, how does all that work? What is it?…/~
Good rises from good actions, and that is good./
Beyond that, what else do saints and good people say?/…….
In honor of this sacred month, I’d like to discuss briefly a term I have been considering, mentioned in the Book of Language by Kabir Helminski.
The word Shari’ah is known to mean Sacred Law, and to preserve social order. For me, there is a kind of strictness associated with the word. Actually, it is based on the Qu’ran and the example of Muhammad – [who was known to break his own rules!] It comes from the verb shara’a, literally “an open, clear way.” The term shir’ah (or shari’ah), Kabir writes, “signifies ‘the way to a watering place.’” May we all be refreshed! May this gentle, earthy verbal reality become actual!
Here is my poem about Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Hafsa, and the Quran, from my forthcoming book, Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad.
Marwan, governor of Medina… sent a courier to Hafsa
asking for the folios but she refused him… Anas ibn Malik
Tell The Governor I say no,
I don’t accept command or bribe
I do not vacillate
and you can leave, now go.
I am the Prophet’s librarian. And this
is the book: al-Kitab. The only set
of Abu Bakr’s folios, first copy of God’s kiss.
Its ink still hums against my very skin.
The Mother Who Reads, the Prophet’s librarian,
how blessed I am by al-Kitab,
which, after the last companion’s gone
may wash believers in the Word-of-God
Arabic, a printed alembic architecture of light
recorded on palm stalk, on camel’s
shoulder-bone, or held in memory;
copied to parchment then, and
swaddled with a length of green cloth, first
Qu’ran passed from my father
down to Uthman, then to me. Between the leaves
is Revelation. How can someone like you understand,
Marwan? You set yourself to be the one
to grab and shred and burn
this first Qu’ran (may copies rise and multiply),
as soon as I am shrouded in clean cloth
and lowered into earth.
notes: al-kitab – means the (a) book, any book. <>Source: Alim on CD-ROM, narrator, al-Bukhari, Anas ibn Malik hadith #6:183-184.Alim on CD-ROM, narrator, al-Bukhari, Anas ibn Malik hadith #6:183-184. <> <> <> <>