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?

The world from my grandmother’s lap seemed brighter

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In the ebony of my eyes and the caramel of my skin,

My grandmother’s smile is pressed firm—

Her brown locks brush across my cheeks and she holds me tight,

Whispering untold secrets into my ears.

We share smiles that bridge time and make history—

I find myself folded into the depths and crevices of these smiles,

Wrapped up safe in 7aboba’s toob and her secrets.

She smells like fresh lemonade and white lilies and sandaliya, all at once.

She feels like home and sounds like comfort,

And looks so much like me.

Our eyes are shaped like almonds, but carry different stories:

Hers carry depth, having seen so much—

While mine have barely learned to recognize life.

But in our eyes there is a shared legacy,

And one day I will carry my son’s daughter,

Having seen as much as 7aboba did.

For now I am content to find comfort in her embrace,

In the familiar hands that hold me close,

Fingers stained with henna and just as strong as they are beautiful.

 

 

 

“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

“Sunsets”

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If I were a sunset, I would

Rest myself on the bed that is

The world’s anger

I would offer myself as a

Soothing presence, letting the

Glow of my heartfelt emotions

Calm the waters that have been shed

From the eyes of all mankind

I would descend from the highest sky

To carry their burdens, to take away

The toils of their day

I would come down not to watch my reflection

But to color the faces of those who realize

That time is cyclical, and that their

Tears are shed for naught

And as the oranges and yellows and rosy

Amethyst hues begin to turn them

Into shadows of who they once were, I will know

That they have experienced looking

Into the waters, that they understand

Every day begins and ends the same

And they can witness the dusk

Just as they have come to expect the dawn

“The Things They Carried”

“For the most part they carried themselves with poise, a kind of dignity. Now and then, however, there were times of panic, when they squealed and wanted to squeal but couldn’t, when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered their heads and said Dear Jesus and flopped around on the earth and fired their weapons blindly and cringed and sobbed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild and made stupid promises to themselves and to God and to their mothers and fathers, hoping not to die…afterward, when the firing ended, they would blink and peek up. They would touch their bodies, feeling shame, then quickly hiding it. They would force themselves to stand…frame by frame, the world would take on the old logic—absolute silence, then the wind, then sunlight, then voices. It was the burden of being alive.”

From Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried

“Stitches”

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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

A Story in so Many Words: “Reassurances”

She’d only agreed to let him take her back here because she knew he needed it. He needed the reassurance that, in some parallel universe, where all the elements and time were on their side, their daughter would still be alive and they wouldn’t need to shed so many tears.

“Salt”

She drowns, and no one sees

That her tears have become

Drops from the ocean

Not salty, but bitter

With the knowledge that

They have forgotten.

She used to catch their tears

In the palm of her hand

So that they seeped into

The crevices and stung

The years of hard work

That hardened her skin

Were she to stand up now

And let the ocean waters

Wash off like memories

Down her back

She knows that none of them

Would spare her a single drop