quite frankly the reality is you don’t know anything about me
you won’t either, as i have no interest in telling you and i’ve come to realize you have no interest in hearing or absorbing it nor the capability to integrate any knowledge gained about me into anything inside your brain or your heart
i don’t fault you; i am the same
never have i cared less to know about the daily trivialities of my fellow person never have i expected any less of anyone
i know, i know, it looks like we are all returning to former spaces in collective harmony
but the reality is we’re riding solo in bumper cars doing our best to carry on using the fumes of our own depleting volition, only acknowledging the existence of others when they literally ram into us, or we into them, despite our very best efforts to avoid one another
we zoom away with the understanding that any damage is two ways and inescapable in any such encounter, and that our minds will have a lot to consider about what just happened or didn’t, for as long as we continue to idle around the enclosure
you see, things are opening up out there at a pace not matched by our minds,
fortunate are those who find themselves in their place and whose life flows gently around them like a calm stream around a submerged rock
everything comes and goes
people come and go
and we, we stay just where we are
fortunate are those firmly rooted whose life piles on like more topsoil so that even a bitter wind changes nothing
when all is said and done what matters may be how much we mattered or else, how certain those remaining, could feel that we have not truly left
the ties that come to bind us together are Given and made
i get it, i finally get it but maybe i got it too late
there’s nothing quite so wonderful as being alone until alone is all that’s left
and we are left wondering how to catch that train, that would have taken us on a known track with known ones and on which the only stops would have been tenderness, love and a little grief for a few short miles, before the end
think, if someone were to be given
a softer heart,
one that was able to feel the soul
we came when called just enough times
that the abode before us consented to transform our lives
a place where love literally throbs,
the heart and soul of the structure that is the centre of our lives
all of us have become so much more and less than we were, here.
the centre has become my centre
and has captured the centre at the centre of me
it spills over its edges into the rest of my life and
makes the rest of my life part of itself too
i am pulled here unyieldingly
as though in the arms of a vortex spinning so fast i can’t even tell
where it begins and where i end
there is nothing i feel that doesn’t get resolved
once i’ve come back to my centre;
not a single worry that isn’t smoothed, a fear that isn’t untangled
once i’ve been here at my core
the people here are like the sound inside a seashell,
telling stories of separate drops flowing together to their ultimate end,
each one making an impression on my heart
this place makes me face those things about myself that i would rather ignore, such as my obvious unworthiness
but of course, that is exactly why i’ve come
brother, you might do it better than me
and you might know something i don’t
but i won’t hold it against you since you are here to show me what i could be, not what i am not
and thank God, thank you, for giving us this place
to come to.
This poem, written shortly after the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, is meant to capture the deep meaning that spaces of community and worship can bring to our lives over time, as well as the newfound meaning we can obtain from the seemingly familiar by engaging on many different levels. This piece is a followup to the original “the centre (2014)”, available to read here.
Said the lover to the beloved, who was consumed by fear of stagnating, of not fulfilling her potential, of wasting her precious time in life:
Look around you!
The apple could not have been picked sooner. The cocoon could not have opened earlier. But neither is sitting still, doing nothing. Both need time to grow.
You are the apple of my eye
and the butterfly of my heart.
I cannot wait until you feel for yourself the wings you are going to grow,
and see how beautiful you are.
At times, we may come to feel trapped within the paths we once chose, or that were chosen for us. We may come to feel that we are idly allowing the mystery, beauty and potential life offers, to pass us by.
This piece takes some words of wisdom that we have all been fortunate to receive at some point in our lives, and adapts them into a brief story.
Some news begins to settle,
in the places where disbelief has left its footprint
you’ve gone, but in leaving you’ve taken me
one, maybe two steps further along in this life
i think i understand why they say, shukhar,
i knew you, once upon a time,
or at least,
i thought i knew you a little bit
i understand there is little that was what it seemed
it’s like a single thread unravelling from a sweater;
one minute, it’s fine, and the next, there’s a gaping hole
except that the hole i feel isn’t in me,
it’s in the fabric of life itself
and life is coursing through,
pulling me upwards in its path
one thing comes over and again to mind:
koi aapse agar kuch maange, to usse dedo, aakhir, yehi to hai zindagi
if someone asks you for something,
then give it,
after all, this. is. life.
this is life,
this is life,
the one time we can love, and breathe, and aspire
the one time we can rise above our human selves
to fulfil the hopes and desires of another being
the one time we can ourselves be
what did i give you,
you, who suffered
unknown to me?
what did i shower on you then,
that i now deserve to pick like fruit
the truth of your hard-lived example?
someone suffered, deeply, quietly,
but we did not know his mind
someone struggled, beautifully,
and we are uplifted with admiration
that we thought we knew him, even for a day.
* * *
A childhood friend has passed away. This piece is a reflection on life, death, and everything in between. Shukhar (among other things) is often said upon a person’s death, by those who follow the Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili tariqa (interpretation) of Islam (and by others Muslims well).