the sky hangs, fragrant
it has heaviness to say.
it takes a late and slow gathering storm
for me to cloak myself
before the orange.

there’s something heady, effusive
singing!
the jasmine flower
bowing over the fence
is here, almost
visiting me with its scent

and i go there
maybe i haven’t been here before
but i know it’s borderless
pure
before everything happened
in a way that maybe could have been mine

in these passages
i am a migrant
who is neither here nor there
being is a place i leave often
where do i go?

you asked me once
about our origin story
i was never really able to tell it that way
here, now
but i know you come from a place i remember
you feel like you were once in my blood,
blooming
maybe something less true, perhaps
but still ringing, ringing, sounding softly
like a petal
crushed on my skin
I could give no answer
i just looked at the stain
the residue you left
and felt at home
is it because our ruins are so alike?

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zora said there are years that have answers 

but I can only find them in fugitive windows of time 

night constellations stringing my insomnias

into a garland 

of anxieties that begged articulation

pleaded with me to chase the frames

to find the ways of seeing 

(did we ever learn to do that?)

until one moment one night perhaps an incipient morning even as if those demarcations absolve us of something 

something breaks quietly imperceptibly and gently spills 

an offering at my feet 

a surfeit of words

that write me 

Kan ya ma kan fi qadeem azzaman. That is how we begin stories, myths. We begin by telling names and places, but I have none for you today. We begin with ancient genealogies, with the telling of a history replete, adorned with all the ornaments of time, a history that precedes everything and carves rivers, mountains, gods, mortals, jinn, legendary beings into the story. But the history for this story was misplaced.

I will begin telling it anyway. I will tell you about a being that is neither mortal nor god nor jinn. She knows no rivers, mountains, or seas but reigns over them all. She has no name, no signifier. Gracefully, adeptly, she escapes appellation.

A storyteller once called her a ghost, but a ghost she is not. Ghosts lack weight and presence. Let her weight and presence be known and never questioned. She is ghostlike, perhaps, rarely seen, without substance, without constraints, without a soul. She is another kind of creature, omnipotent, omnipresent. She has no body but is everywhere. She has no vision but sees everything and bends it to her will. She is a being of contradictions—contradictions that sustain her but must also be her downfall.

You might ask me if I speak of magic, but there is nothing supernatural here. Oh, but she has a special kind of magic, all her own. She feigns immortality, and she makes you believe. She makes you believe. She whispers, her waswasa shifting balances and scales, changing the colors of seas, the anatomy of bodies, the geography of moons and planets. She says she will always be with us, her inevitability cannot be negotiated.

And just as she is immortal, without end, she is without beginning. She is primordial like the elements. They will tell you she was never born, for she always was. She is not from a place, though mythmakers sometimes steal land to call it her home. She may lay claim to Mount Olympus, to ancient expansive time, to a world before worlds. They may say she was there at creation, but she arrived much later (but who was there at creation to say otherwise). She is a being without origin, left out of the archives and the mouths of hakawatis. And who wants to write a history of something that always was and always will be. It is rather exhausting.

She writes her own histories instead, but she claims no authorship. A ghost writer in the truest sense. She is at once a mythmaker, a hakawati, a historian, and a judge, her signature scrawled invisibly on all documents.

She has many children of many races and peoples, but she does not claim them. Who wants to claim evil children who fight and sow discord? She is happy simply to watch over them, as they, like the Titans, build and destroy, creating expansive margins of freedom for her to colonize. She chastises them from time to time, gently, the way you reprimand a neighbor’s wayward child. Though she has given birth, she is no mother. She is a beneficiary.

When they cannot sleep, she does not sing to them. But she is a musical being with a sonorous voice and a wondrous harp. She can change sounds in the airwaves, intercept, redirect, reveling in a dissonance she creates. She thrives in noise and in quiet.

She is a gardener of sorts. She plants seeds that are not organic, but somehow they grow. She breathes life into things that spread over the world like a resilient weed, an invasive species that somehow leaves everything barren.

And through it all she promises freedom. Freedom from what, you might ask? But shhh she says. Let us think of better things.

She talks of rising, levitation, flight, and that all sounds so beautiful, so soothing. She lulls you to complacency. She promises prosperity for all. A world we can all take a part of for ourselves. She hopes you will remember sometimes and at other times forget; forgetting is her most powerful elixir.

She is religious. She sings hymns to many gods, for she cannot be asked to choose just one. But her piety wavers. She grows tired sometimes and throws them together, discord arising from the sharp relief.

She is a preacher, a proselytizer, but never a penitent, though she will tell you to ask for penance. She says ask your gods for deliverance, for plenty. She says ask your gods for patience, for victory. She says ask your gods, but do not ask me.

But she is the only god that matters, and they all worship her though they may not realize it.

Her story was never told, never transcribed. She flits between the pages of history. And if you try to apprehend her, she slips away without a trace, leaving you to wonder if she was ever there.

Dear Maureen

Dear Maureen,

It is not easy writing this letter. It began as a poem, a long poem. I tried to turn it into an essay but the result was wooden, cold. I have not yet unlearned the esoteric bullshit and pseudo-intellectualizing that school brainwashed into my writing.

How to begin again. How to approximate the intimacy and immediacy I want. What form? A letter, of course.

—Gloria Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers”

Can we ever restore lost resonance? I stayed up all night once wondering about this. When resonance is lost, when things fail to sound, what can we do? The next morning, a broken friendship tried gently to mend itself.

But still, part of me is terrified that it cannot be restored. Part of me is unsure if all I ever do is gather up broken, empty referents—referring to nothing, making silence, failing to resonate.

But the rest of me wants to live up to my namesake and have faith. I want to believe in an imminent reconciliation, a community coming towards me, arms wide open, a vast garden walking around me and drawing green. If only because believing this is necessary—if only because so much hinges on that hope—the world I want to build and inhabit. And to create it, I must have hope. Even provisional hope is something.

Arundhati Roy said “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

I can hear her breathing, but for a while now it has been quieter. I have not heard from you in a while.

But I am to blame for the silence, the ensuing rupture in sound, where all the lines went dead.

Listen. Let me explain.

At that time in my life, that foggy, cold, distant place that no longer feels like me, many different traumas—traumas with different roots, magnitudes, trajectories—collided in me. They coalesced in the most destabilizing way. I was destabilized to the point of paralysis. I felt completely unable to respond, to assimilate everything. I was experiencing it all collapse into itself into something unmovable. I felt all my power drain from me, leaving me completely unresponsive.

And in turn, my world and everything in it appeared unresponsive to me. Everything felt barren, unable to nourish or grow. Everything dimmed.

But I acknowledge that just as our personal traumas have deep, far-reaching genealogies, so too do they spread forward, growing into our present even more powerfully. And I am so sorry for the reverberations that carried through to you, to me and you, to break the harmony in our little affective space. I am sorry for all of the gaps, lacks, and absences I somehow became. How they silenced these nurturing, fruitful songs.

Listen: I want you to know that I hold myself accountable for this. I want you to know that I have turned these words over in my mind a thousand times but they never sound smoother—the jagged noise always springs forth into my hearing. But did we ever learn to make truth rounded, harmonious?

Listen: I blame myself for anything that has lost its resonance, for anything that now fails to sound. For all the stories that were never shared, any personal truths that in all the following moments could not commune.

Listen: I am so much better now. I am healthy and happy. I have found all of the resources and energies and communities to sustain me for when I am not. And so many of those energies and resources I owe to you.

Listen: I would not sound the same if not for you. My words would be broken, unable to be heard. A string of sounds could not flow from me in this way. You taught me all the songs I know. You showed me how to belong, to be intentional, to create, to navigate, to negotiate. You awakened dream worlds in me that felt sleepy and fuzzy for so long.

Listen: Maureen, I still don’t know if we can ever bring back that lost resonance. If we can rebuild our spaces to harmonize again. If we can find those emotional acoustics all over again and speak more truly through them. If we can learn to hear ourselves or others better. But, Maureen, I hope we can, and I have to believe it.

I haven’t heard from you for a while. I hope I do soon.

Love,

Eman

things i am learning 

I am learning a lot about my own responses and intuitions. I am learning about my ability to have a voice and express joy, surprise, pain, solidarity, commitment, and confusion. I am learning about my world and all those who flourish and struggle within it. I am learning about history and all the personal experiences that coalesce into it. I am firmly rooted in an uprooted and liminal becoming which carries me from one space to another. 

I am still not sure about how to organize and validate this knowledge. I feel tentative about my path(s) but confident in being tentative, in acknowledging gaps in my understanding and the precarity of my process, in knowing I am actively carving out a process and a space for myself.
 
I am still not sure how to straddle personal truth, identity, justice, community, academia, politics, and art. I am still working out how my commitments reverberate in ever widening rings and how they touch others and reflect back to me with new resonance.

I am working on bringing my sisters and brothers and friends and family closer and embracing our personal and collective dreams, vulnerabilities, and trajectories. I am working on understanding and forgiveness. I am working on understanding when forgiveness is not my task. 

I am working on reading and writing. I am learning to see. I am learning to say. I am working on finding better eyes with which to read the world and better hands to inscribe my truth onto it. I am working on making them more beautiful, truer. I am working on growing my vision. I am working on making it finer, specific. I am learning to be gentler, firmer, too.
 

I am working on remembering to write. I am working on remembrance. I am working on forgetting.
 

I am working on holding things, watching them grow, watering them, and sometimes giving them space. I am learning when I need to grow alongside them. And to see when they need different soil.

i can no longer slip in from one dimension to anotherand acclimate

struggle isn’t a hobby or a pastime 

every hour invested is an hour disinvested, withdrawn – from elsewhere

-my evie