Friday, July 29, 2005

"America" - Yasmin Ahmad


Iraq Basra girl
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"Like smelling salts
to the senses,
coffee
in an American breakfast.
American coffee aroma;
invisible demons
rising from dusty nuts
and glowing cinders.
Coffee,
like a sweaty African widow;
a frenzied tussle in bed,
leaving you with
scars
that can never go,
smells
you can never forget.

O America.
I have nothing but
praise
for your inadvertent
ways;
your lemming ambitions,
your earnestness
and your endless
speeches;
your humanitarian
inhumanities;
your refined
vulgarities;
your wisdoms
that are almost always
born
out of wedlock,
fathered
by ignorance.

You rape all things native,
erase all things grey,
until all that is left
is like coffee;
black
or white,
good
or bad.

O America.
The world dreams of being like you;
secretly covets
all that is yours,
just as you once coveted
all that was not.

O America.
Coated with stains of
coffees
from faraway lands.
Coffees that sailed
in little Mayflowers.
Coffees that were at first
lean,
were overfed,
became obese
and became
America.

Became
sidewalk cafes.
With large
Anglo-Saxon women
donning French hats
and Italian shoes,
sipping Colombian refills.
Their eyes widen
and their eye-shadow
creases.
Their smiles are wide
and their teeth are many.
They are
inspired,
as they always are,
with an idea,
a big idea,
a larger-than-life idea.

Suddenly,
a Puccini aria becomes
the soundtrack
to a Hollywood movie.
Suddenly,
Mozart’s divertimenti
are gracing
a Tupperware party,
with endless chatter
and rivers of coffee.

They say
a people is the child
of the environment.
As for me,
I don’t know,
I think you are
as you should be.
You are
America.

For certain
I sing my praises for you.
For certain
I raise my cup of
Starbuck
to you.
Perhaps because
I am not you.
Or from you.
Or with you.
Or black
and living among you.

But just the same,
God bless America.
Because if He doesn’t,
God help the world."

"Like clockwork" - Yasmin Ahmad


muslim cemetery
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"Like clockwork it happens,
tick by tock by quick tick by hurried tock,
but quietly,
its decibel perceptible
only to the cat and the dog.
The watch on the wrist tries to warn us,
tapping its tiny untiring beat
against the hesitant pulse of our blood;
the clock on the wall tocks on,
in defiance to the time-honoured tradition of
silence in the school hall.
We were not listening.

The body was doomed to stop
even before it started.
Death has a life of its own.
Time marches doggedly
to the cliff of its own end.

We were not listening;
deaf to the decay of the planets and the suns.
Stars were exploding and dying in the night.
We were making love;
making life.
We saw it happen in the garden;
to the trees and the pets,
and still we watched our own dying
with blinkered optimism
- “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” -
oh yes, and by the way,
also one day closer to the end of it.
And curiously, when it happens,
everyone is surprised.
Everyone is visibly moved.
Eyebrows are raised, eyes are lowered,
mouths open like unsuspecting clams,
tongues click.
Surprised, as if we had no knowledge of it,
as if it were a newcomer,
as if it were a sniper.
And when it’s over, everyone walks away,
lamenting the weather and the price of fish.
The grave is forgotten
sooner than it was remembered.

What wisdom descends when I pause to listen to death?
Nothing really.
Except, my beloved’s eyes dance
when he tells me about his day,
and I must remember to kiss them
before they finally close."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Azan" - Yasmin Ahmad


minaret
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"From the trembling throats of men,
out through round open lips,
scattered
like an invisible mist
rolling from atop a tower,
high above the sins of the city.
The cry of the azan.

O strange serenade.
Neither happy nor mournful,
you defy definition.
You admonish, yet offer redemption.
You demand work at inconvenient hours,
but in the end, dispense rest.

O aria of hope.
You announce, acapella,
the end of night, the end of darkness,
as it passes into light.
Your stern voice stirs
eyelids of lead;
your melody calms
the quiver of dew-covered leaves
when they are anxious
for the coming of the sun.

O azan.
I knew your meaning
long before I knew your language.
The children understand you
whose parents have learned not to understand you.

You are five commas,
punctuating a day of nonsensical sentences."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

"When you planted a kiss in the valley of my shoulder" - Yasmin Ahmad

bobby
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"When you planted a kiss in the valley of my shoulder,
my lips were parted, but I was not speaking;
my eyes were closed, but I was never more awake;
I stopped breathing, but I was never more alive.

Today,
somewhere along the face of the earth,
rocks are descending and ships are dying.
Hungry fires roar through the gaping mouths
of concrete dragons.
The plains are grazed by poisoned cattle
and the sky is black and choking with greed.

But tonight,
in a sleepy flat in Klang Valley,
for one brief moment,
every clock and every watch in every room
stopped moving.
I smelled distant jasmine and tuberoses.
My tongue was laced with the aftertaste
of honey and almonds
and long lost hopes.
And in that brief, translucent moment,
the dead and wrinkled skin of my past
fell in a heap at my feet.

For once,
the arrows of time missed me,
the breath of angels embraced me,
when you kissed me
in the valley of my shoulder."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long."

"Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to a pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her."

Tagore on Forgiveness.


forgive me
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God,
First fill your own house with the fragrance of Love.

Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart.

Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen.

Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down trodden.

Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,
First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you."


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Gardener (an excerpt) - Rabindranath Tagore

"Your questioning eyes are sad.
They seek to know my meaning
as the moon would fathom the sea.

I have bared my life before your eyes
from end to end,
with nothing hidden
or held back.
That is why
you know me not.

If it were only a gem,
I could break it into a hundred pieces
and string them into a chain
to put on your neck.
If it were only a flower,
round and small and sweet,
I could pluck it from its stem
to set it in your hair.

But it is a heart, my beloved.
Where are its shores and its bottom?
You know not the limits of
this kingdom,
still you are its queen.

If it were only a moment of pleasure
it would flower in an easy smile,
and you could see it and read it
in a moment.
If it were merely a pain
it would melt in limpid tears,
reflecting its inmost secret
without a word.

But it is love, my beloved.
Its pleasure and pain are boundless,
and endless are its wants and wealth.

It is as near to you
as your life,
but you can never
wholly
know it."



Does that last phrase sound familiar to anyone?