Innocent

Do you remember her?

She used to dream so freely

Grasping for joy and comfort

In the spaces where there was no room

For hate

Remember?

She colored outside of the lines so well

And her ears heard nothing but melodies

Her eyes saw nothing but beautiful things

She used to believe that everyone was pure-hearted

And she could laugh and smile in her own way

Without second-guessing her appearance

Remember?

Remember when she sat on her mother’s lap

And thought the world was perfect,

Just the way it was?

She used to lie at night, unburdened

Her thoughts light, her mind at ease

Do you remember her, the little girl you used to be?

This is not a love story 

She tried to tell him 

Her heart was not made for loving 

But he laughed and loved her anyway

He reached deep into the spaces

Where her mind played tricks on her

And told her she deserved only her thoughts 

As company 

He came and pushed these thoughts aside 

And took residence in the crevices 

Between her fears and her selfish needs

She tried to tell him 

Her heart was not made for loving 

She tried to show him that inside she was

Empty.

With nothing to offer but the sad remains of something resembling affection 

She tried to tell him 

He didn’t listen, and loved her still 

Even when at times she seemed only a shell of herself,

Retreating into corners and hiding in the silence 

Even when she wished only to drive him away

So that he might find some other heart who knew to love, and love entirely 

Even then he waited patiently, indulging her silences 

And held her until she came to learn what holding meant 

She didn’t know how to explain it— that there was no room in her for love

Not since she’d forgotten how to love herself 

But he knew, and told her without saying much, what loving really was

It was caring for a wreck like her, who could never love as much 

She tried to tell him 

“Remembering”

Like the drops of dew that

Have come to take residence

On her hollowed cheeks

The raindrops splattering

Over the umbrella of her

Broken thoughts

Sting.

They sting, and she does nothing

To wipe them away. Instead she

Clutches onto a hope

That the past will be wiped

From her mind,

With the salt of her memories

And the novelty of new pain

That comes in the deluge

From an equally unhappy sky

In Memory of Sayed-Ahmed Abdalraheem. Husband. Brother. Father. Grandfather. Uncle. Friend

July 6, 2014

You were a father figure to all; your gracious goodwill and charming personality cultivated in your heart an everlasting affection and a warm and welcoming smile to friend and family member alike. There’s a reason the term is “grand” father. The tasks you completed in your lifetime, the help you willingly offered others, the hospitality you showed to those who needed it—were nothing less than grand. Everyone who spoke of you recalled with nostalgic reminiscence the way you opened the doors of your home to strangers and family, the way you put aside your own needs to please your family and your children.

Your best traits—and you had nothing but the best of traits—were passed on to your sons and daughter. You had the qualities of a leader and the heart of the strongest believer. I have seen these qualities mirrored in my own father, who has always taught me to lead, not follow. I know without a doubt that he got that attitude from you; you, who spoke your opinion aloud to those whom you thought needed to hear it; you, who would stop at nothing to right a wrong. You, who stood at the head of the table at my first birthday, smiling from ear to ear, with a love that radiated far brighter than the candles in the cake. I thank God that Baba had a knack for photography, and that he documented what seems like every second of my infancy. Today I went back and I looked at these pictures, these memories of a time to which I sometimes wish I could return. I looked at these pictures and I realized how lucky I was to grow up in your arms, to learn your name and hold your hand, to be counted among the many who can say that they were spoiled and loved by Sayed Ahmed Abdalraheem.

I will not say that your passing is easy, Jiddo. It isn’t. I don’t think even you realized the love and admiration and respect I had—and still have, and will always have—for you. You have given me the courage to stand up tall and speak my mind, like you. To be generous and put the needs of others before my own, like you. To lead and be strong, and to lend that strength when those around us can’t bear the burdens that life often sees fit to hand us. Like you. I am proud to say that I want to be just like you, for you were an exemplary role model. What strikes me the most is that you did what you did, not out of a sense of duty or because you felt you needed to fulfill an obligation, but because it was within your nature to do good. You were always prepared to sacrifice your needs for the sake of something greater, and I pray that someday God will grant me the same wisdom.

In the end, the heart that you nurtured so well could not withstand the love that you allowed to grow within it. And my heart, like yours, can only take so much. But I will stay strong, for you. I will keep going through the pictures, and I’ll share the cherished memories I have of you with Ahmed, Lena and Rayan, who don’t have as many recollections of you as they would like to have. I have not cried the last of my tears, but I have hope that your legacy will travel through the generations, insha’Allah, so that your death will not have been in vain. We will all strive to accomplish what you were able to achieve in your lifetime, and may Allah give us the strength and the willpower to live long, healthy and productive lives, so that one day, I can tell my children about their late great-grandfather. I’ll show them the pictures, and I’ll pass on your stories, and as we laugh and cry and recall the past, we will all keep praying to Allah (SWT), to allow us to be just like you.

Love, Always

Nahoola

“The Practice of Civility”

I am Referee
Standing at a stance
Arms splayed open
To accommodate for the
Distance left between
The two of you
My tiger stripes stand for courage
To help me make the call

I am Peacekeeper
Consoling you while
I comfort her
Reassuring words pour forth
Time and again, recycled
Churning in my belly before
Spewing out to tell you that
“You’re right. Yes, of course. I know it’s not fair”

I am Healer
Holding on to the
Shredded love between
You, watching as it
Melts in strips through
Warm fingertips and you
Cling to my shoulder, shedding your
Troubles and your crocodile tears

I am Mediator
Once again between you while
She tugs and you shove
Neither to be outdone, eager
To have justice on your sides
But justice takes to the sidelines—
Vertigo and gravity make
For a better team

I am Counselor
Having to explain
The difference between
Being listened to
And being heard, yet still
You refuse to free yourself
Of the leash that Pride
Holds doggedly against you

I am Caught in the Middle
Ensnared in the back-and-forth
That is your life’s work
Praying silently for your silence
I close my eyes and wait
For one of you to lose interest
Who am I to stop you
When you’re at your best?

“The Practice of Civility”

I am Referee
Standing at a stance
Arms splayed open
To accommodate for the
Distance left between
The two of you
My tiger stripes stand for courage
To help me make the call

I am Peacekeeper
Consoling you while
I comfort her
Reassuring words pour forth
Time and again, recycled
Churning in my belly before
Spewing out to tell you that
“You’re right. Yes, of course. I know it’s not fair”

I am Healer
Holding on to the
Shredded love between
You, watching as it
Melts in strips through
Warm fingertips and you
Cling to my shoulder, shedding your
Troubles and your crocodile tears

I am Mediator
Once again between you while
She tugs and you shove
Neither to be outdone, eager
To have justice on your sides
But justice takes to the sidelines—
Vertigo and gravity make
For a better team

I am Counselor
Having to explain
The difference between
Being listened to
And being heard, yet still
You refuse to free yourself
Of the leash that Pride
Holds doggedly against you

I am Caught in the Middle
Ensnared in the back-and-forth
That is your life’s work
Praying silently for your silence
I close my eyes and wait
For one of you to lose interest
Who am I to stop you
When you’re at your best?

“Stitches”

decorations-wallpaper-1280x800

She remembers watching

Her mother run practiced

Fingers through, beneath

And over pieces of colored cloth

Her mother’s hands knew

Linens, silks, satins

Intimately caressing surfaces

And stitching patterns

That ran zig-zags across

The span of time

She remembers standing

Obediently while those

Same hands held up countless

Dresses up to her thin, child’s

Body, her mother’s pins

Hanging limply from smoker’s lips

She still recalls the way

The needle pierced where

The seamstress wanted it to pierce

The way patches of cotton

Would become her father’s shirts

She remembers how often

Her mind would turn to

Thoughts of loss

Whenever she saw those fingers

Deftly craft countless dresses

And infinite shirts

She sits now at the same machine

Not to make a dress

But wondering if her mother would know

How to stitch together pieces

Of a little girl’s broken heart

“Secrets”

funny_secret-wallpaper-1280x800

Hold me like you won’t let go

Tell me how you really feel

Because, you see, I need to know

If what we share is fake or real

Let me see your eyes tonight

Sister, brother, of my heart

I won’t let you leave my sight

For I can’t stand for us to part

Let’s you and I teach others how

Love is the only thing we need

Whisper in my ear a vow

That we’ll plant love’s budding seed