Age of Jahiliyah

A blog of wide and varied interest, including Islam, Muslims, Poetry, Art and much more.

Archive for the day “February 14, 2011”

Fooling the Killers by Taha Muhammad Ali

I wonder now
where you are….
I haven’t forgotten you
after all these years,
long as the graveyard
wall is long.I always
ask the grass of the field
about you, and the dirt paths.

Are you alive,
with your poise,
your cane, and memories?
Did you marry?
Do you have a tent of your own,
and children?
Did you make it to Mecca?
Or did they kill you
at the foot of the Hill of Tin?

Or maybe you never grew up,
Qasim, and managed to hide,
behind your mere ten years,
and you’re still the same old Qasim,
the boy who runs around
and laughs
and jumps over fences,
who likes green almonds
and searches for birds’ nests.

But even if they did it,
if, shamelessly,
they killed you,
I’m certain
you fooled your killers,
just as you managed
to fool the years.
For they never discovered
your body at the edge of the road,
and didn’t find it
where the rivers spill,
or on the shelves
at the morgue,
and not on the way to Mecca,
and not beneath the rubble.

As no one saw you
concealing your corpse,
so no one will ever set eyes on you,
and no earthly breeze
encounter a bone of your body,
a finger of your hand,
or even a single shoe
that might fit you.
Qasim, you fooled them.

I always envied you, Qasim,
your skill at hiding
in the games of hide-and-seek we played—
barefoot at dusk—forty years ago—
when we were little boys.


When I am Asked by Lisel Mueller

When I am asked

how I began writing poems,

I talk about the indifference of nature.


It was soon after my mother died,

a brilliant June day,

everything blooming.


I sat on a gray stone bench

in a lovingly planted garden,

but the day lilies were as deaf

as the ears of drunken sleepers

and the roses curved inward.

Nothing was black or broken

and not a leaf fell

and the sun blared endless commercials

for summer holidays.


I sat on a gray stone bench

ringed with the ingenue faces

of pink and white impatiens

and placed my grief

in the mouth of language,

the only thing that would grieve with me.



Emails from Scheherazad by Mohja Kahf

Hi, babe. It’s Scheherazad. I’m back

For the millennium and living in Hackensack,

New Jersey. I tell stories for a living.

You ask if there is a living in that.


You must remember: Where I come from,

Words are to die for. I saved the virgins

From beheading by the king, who was killing

Them to still the beast of doubt in him.


I told a story. He began to listen and I found

That story led to story. Powers unleashed, I wound

The thread around the pirn of night. A thousand days

Later, we got divorced. He’d settled down

& wanted a wife & not so much an artist.

I wanted publication. It was hardest,

Strangely, on my sister, Dunyazad. She

Was the one who nightly used to start it.


She and my ex do workshops now in schools

On art & conflict resolution. Narrative rules!

I teach creative writing at Montclair State,

And I’m on my seventh novel and book tour.


Shahrayar and I share custody of our little girl.

We split up amicably. I taught him to heal

His violent streak through stories, after all,

And he helped me uncover my true call.



From the Dervish Way #10

I haven’t come here to settle down.

I’ve come here to depart.

I am a merchant with lots of goods,

selling to whoever will buy.

I didn’t come to create any problems,

I’m only here to love.

A Heart makes a good home for the Friend.

I’ve come to build some hearts.

I’m a little drunk from this Friendship-

Any lover would know the shape I’m in.

I’ve come to exchange my twoness,

to disappear in One.

He is my teacher. I am His servant.

I am a nightingale in His garden.

I’ve come to the Teacher’s garden

to be happy and die singing.

They say “Souls which know each other here,

know each other there.”

I’ve come to know a Teacher

and to show myself as I am.



I Can Scent an Arab Man a Mile Away by Mohja Kahf

My stubbly-chinned,

black-haired, tawny-skinned

Arab male kin, the white-robed

and the black-tied of them,

milling on the male side of a wedding,

can be counted on for many good things:

To be politicized about Palestine

from the third grade, at the latest;

to cushion the tumbles of small children

without pausing in conversation;

to sit on the floor, leaning forward,

elbow on one raised knee and eat heartily,

even if the meal is only stale bread

soaked in broth; and to recognize

Scripture and poetry.

They may be

mustachio’d, macho, patriarchal,

sexist, egotistical, parochial-

They may, as men may,

think themselves indomitable,

being easily manipulable,

-but they’re mine, my

sleek and swarthy, hairy-chested,

curly-headed lovers of the Prophet

and lovers of the Virgin,

sons of the city street and village boys,

wanderers tribal and global.

I know them by the rims around their eyes

I know them by the sheen upon their skin

I know them by the growling ghayns

and gnawing dads and hoarse hungry khas

that rumble up from the hollow in their chests

and fill the throat and swell the cheek,

distend the lips and pearl off the tongue,

and emerge, a language, theirs-ours-mine.

My men, familiar

as the road home,

the threshold of love

I can leap astride their legendary chivalry,

if I remember

what words will make it carry me

aloft, aloft….

Oh, I know those words

I hold those reins

These fine horses won’t,

despite their snorting,

rearing, pacing, bucking,

cavorting, caracoling, won’t escape me.

(God, they look so sexy in those checkered scarves.)



My Babysitter Wears a Face Veil by Mohja Kahf

My babysitter, Selwa, wears a face-veil

whenever she goes out

She drives her husbands’s four-by-four

on mountainous truck tires

Only her eyes show,

like the dark parts of Himalayan mountains peeking

through the veiling clouds and snow

She barrels down Livingston Avenue

with the confidence of a teenaged driver,

her children strapped in back

A distinguished gentleman is exiting First Fidelity

Bank-astonished, he pivots!pirouettes!

His suit corners flutter delicately

He becomes for her a businessman ballerina

He can’t see

her grin, but she does

A middle-aged woman customer is transfixed, and twirls,

in her Eva Gabor wig, on a stool at The Hungry Peddler

Selwa thinks it’s delicious,

whatever she’s eating

A young pink-collar worker

on her way to Johnson and Johnson’s

in a bright blue Nissan, stops and stares,

bared lipstick in midair

Selwa waves at her gaily

My babysitter steps on the brakes

and the continents grind, shifting

gears: Then henna,

howdahs, saffron, gold embroidery,

and Circassian queens on elephants intersect

with Allied Movers’ tractor-trailers, baseball caps,

suction-cup Garfield cats, Calvin Klein

mascara, and a pack of Camels on the dash;

Zuleika meets the Marlboro Man across a delayed green

The secretary-next-door is face-to-face with Laila

Somewhere, songs from Guys and Dolls are scrambled

with the soundtrack of Khali balak min Zuzu and both

are drowned out by The Monster Truck & Auto

Show-Show-Show of the Century-ree-ree

At intersections do drivers know

each other for a moment?

Is it the lull, the looking in glass,

the lane lines, the language

of light and movement-

Is traffic transcendental?

Do Selwa and the woman with the lipstick

and the trucker see

behind the blind spot for an instant?




From the Dervish Way #7

The mature ones are a sea.

A lover is needed to take the plunge,

a diver to bring up a pearl.

When you have brought

the pearl to the surface,

a jeweler is needed to know its worth.

Stay on the road until you arrive.

Be speechless. Don’t become a salesman.

Find an Ali to follow.

Muhammad knew Truth in himself.

Truth is present everywhere.

You only need eyes to see it.

Ask you daily sustenance from Truth,

the only Apportioner. Find someone

who is master of his ego.

The lovers asked me to sing.

Someone without greed is needed

to complete what is started.

Sufi, who are you kidding?

Can anyone but Truth

satisfy a human need?

Truth’s place is in the heart.

There’s a verse in the Quran-In the soul

love has a tower higher than the throne of Creation.

I’ve gone crazy on this Way.

I can’t tell day from night.

The arrow of Love has pierced my heart.

Come, poor Yunus, come,

hold the hands of the mature.

In their humility is a cure.


From the Way of Love #15

Leave appearances. Come to essence and meaning.

Don’t dwell in images or you’ll never mature.


The Way is amazing but don’t be deceived.

Let it be a wonder to see the Friend’s face.


Dress yourself in love. Set out on the Way to the Friend.

Persevere and you’ll have so much to see.


From here to the city of Love three hundred oceans you’ll travel and after crossing them seven hells.


Let yourself burn up, burn to ashes in each one,

until nothing’s left of your body, except a very different one.


The city of Reality has seven doors, and over a gate the words:

Come in and know the power of your Lord.





From the Dervish Way #2 by Yunus Emre

If I told you about a land of love,

friend, would you follow me and come?

In that land are vineyards

that yield a deadly wine-

no glass can hold it.

Would you swallow it as a remedy?

The people there must suffer.

Would you serve the sweetest drink to others

and take the bitter drink yourself?

There are no moons or suns there.

Nothing waxes or wanes.

Would you surrender your plans

and forget about seductions?

Here we’re made of water, earth, fire, and air.

Yunus, tell us, is this what you’re made of?


Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam by Ernest Dowson

The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. Horace


They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,

Love and desire and hate:

I think they have no portion in us after

We pass the gate.


They are not long, the days of wine and roses:

Out of a misty dream

Our path emerges for a while, then closes

Within a dream.

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