the centre (2019)

ismaili centre toronto
Image sourced from TheIsmaili.org: http://www.theismaili.org/ismailicentres/toronto/architecture-toronto-0

think, if someone were to be given
a softer heart,

one that was able to feel the soul
in everything

~

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.

Navroz Mubarak (2015)

Shoots of wheat. Image sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatgrass.
Shoots of wheat. Image sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheatgrass.

These days our eyes have opened to another sun,
quite further and beyond the one
that dapples everything with gold these evenings.

For the first time in our lives we yearn to cry,

navroz mubarak!

not for what has happened with us
but for what we hope will happen to you as well.

~

The day is here, and this time, springtime clichés are no longer.
Some seeds have grown up on their own into meaning.

How to describe this blessing?

Closing our eyes becomes the same as opening them;
this light continues beyond sight.

We are truly one this time, angelic in the abounding clarity
which at once we can see, and not see.

In our blessed gathering we are as light as we have ever been,
our true selves merging, one another with the rest.

~

Navroz (or Nowruz) is a festival celebrated around the world to commemorate the beginning of a new year and the first day of spring.

To learn more about Navroz, visit Wikipedia.org and/or TheIsmaili.org.

To read “navroz (2014)” on this blog, click here.

shukhar

Image source: http://imgur.com/gallery/49Pgl
Image source: http://imgur.com/gallery/49Pgl

Some news begins to settle,
quietly,
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,

thanks

~

i knew you, once upon a time,
or at least,
i thought i knew you a little bit

and now,
but now,

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
compassionate; merciful

~

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).

what we know about ourselves (2014)

Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.
Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.

we love only that which is our own

a man, with his wife and son:
who do you think he truly loves?

~

it rains and rains

you approach, drenched and desolate,
a shelter for me, if only i would accept you

~

i wish we could say,
we are always happy with what we know about ourselves

i wish we could say,
we come with noble intention,
that we have been saving our last loaf
for the hunger of another

i wish we could say
we fall to our knees and kiss the ground,
thankful each day
for the fact that we can feel

~

sometimes when it rains
a gray runs down our face too

and sometimes,
we wish we could deny that we enjoy it

else, why would we drink the drink of self,
that warming wine of separation?

why would we continue being what we are?

~

we are, men in all of our abasement;
men, in all of our greatness

we bend lower
so that others might be jealous of our righteousness

we paint peace on our face
that they might admire our beauty as we pray

~

when everything is gray
go ask for it to be better
for someone else;

what you would have happen to you,
have it happen to someone else

oh dearest, you’ve never really been
hungry; never really been sad

you’ve never really needed anything you didn’t already have

come, smooth over the wrinkles on someone else’s face

make them yours,

and love them too.

the shower of your blessing (2014)

this, is the shower of your blessing
the one that comes down as music
needing only something off which to sound

we hover now, on the best place there is:
on the threshold, a step away from your rain,
but not fully inside of it

 

only here can we truly appreciate what you send

 

were we immersed,
we could not see how this rain drops abundantly on every leaf,
each of which curls, bows, in gratitude

were we too far away
we could not see how this rain constantly merges with itself,
ever merging into larger course

 

a trickle to a stream, a stream to a river:
instinctively, we know where this merger leads

hello, beautiful (2014)

i take up space inattentively over two seats,
legs jumbled, in the midst of thought
riding home underground,
writing in my notebook

hello, beautiful

a short latino man intrudes
with a smile or with a leer — i can’t decide

 

at one time i might have
cringed reactively;
strange creep

but today i smile

what does it take from me to be gracious?
here is an opportunity to live
up to what he claims to see in me

he leaves the subway car,
perhaps in search of another
to teach something to

~

does the tree look down at the shade-seeker in disdain?
does the bird turn up his beak at the admirer and say,
shut your ears,
you are not worthy
to hear me?

 

if beauty is with you
it is by no effort of yours

~

and did he not say those words to me
while i was holding the pen?

when else am i beautiful,
if not when being what i am?

when else am i beautiful,
if not when beyond myself,

if not when living in you?

~

thank you,
man from the subway;
thank you very much!

blessings accumulated (2014)

do you
deign
to give the stranger a smile,
to give your friend a single grain
of the love over which you keep such meticulous account?

what of yours will lessen if you unlock yourself
to let someone else gaze upon your treasure?

 

you were only given anything
because Someone thought
you knew what to do
with these gifts

 

give away whatever does not fit comfortably in your existing cupboards

or,
don’t,

and watch how heavy you become in the corpulence of blessings accumulated

 

whatever you keep beyond what you need is
simply,
ingratitude.

tea steeped too long (2014)

tea steeped too long becomes bitter
fruit ripened too long makes waste

a candle impatiently pushes his covering out of the way to join his wick in union with sweet air,
only to drown in himself and die

~

i can never be worthy;
i can never thank you enough
i can never wholly appreciate the gifts you give

~

how can too much love engender hate?

 

when love is scarce, i breathe more deeply to take you in
when you give me some, my hands join in thanks of their own accord;
my spine strong, in harmony with you

 

but

when it doesn’t end,

when you are too kind to me,

 

i fall

 

into inertia, unmoving
my eyes vacant
my heart, inflexible

~

i hate me

this unbeautiful, ungrateful
child

 

i try not to go near you,
because you remind me of everything i am not,
everything i can never be

 

i don’t call your name
i don’t ask for your hand
i don’t journey to your house;
i lock myself in mine

 

if i move an inch i will bump into you
if i see a mirror, i need avert my gaze

 

i hate me when i am not like you;
this unbeautiful, ungrateful
child.