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.
These pieces were written while and after visiting the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. The first, Museum, is a reflection on history, civilizations, art and interpretation. The second piece, courtyard, unedited, was penned while sitting in the Museum’s inner courtyard, and has intentionally been left unedited in order to maintain for the reader, the flow of inspiration as originally felt. It contains English as well as another Hindi-Urdu mixed language that sometimes spills onto the page. Please excuse my rough transliteration attempt as neither of these is my first language.
What will the people from days to come decide to make of us,
what will they preserve in their halls?
Those gone by have become to us what remains of them,
after all tribulation and epiphany fell away into dust.
They have become what we can still understand of them.
There is too much left to know about knowing; not enough left to see.
We fear we are penning lines already penned by those greater than us,
a people that truly saw the truth unfold.
Nothing can be said now that has not been said before;
our efforts, mere echoes of a greater, grander voice.
What inspired these carvers, and what were they trying to say –
can we be certain that we have preserved ourselves against misunderstanding?
Did they create these shapes because those are what they saw,
or were they too, seeking to lose themselves in detailed but repetitive abstraction?
Do these patterns transcend a name?
~ ~ ~
is jahaan mein hum upna sub kuch kho sakte hain, sub kuch seekh bhi saktehain
aisa husn ko bananekiliye, aisi roshni, is roshni, ki zaroorat hai
this light is something like the light of the heavens and the earth; this light has an unnameable quality to it,
a way for all to see all
bathed in it my hand resting on the table becomes something from another world,
translucent, light diffusing outward in the place of rosy flesh
your eyes are from another time here, where patterns repeat themselves to liberate beyond eye’s capacity, where voices rise to a crescendo and we take in,
light, light light,
upon our hands, our face, and every
one is so beautiful here today
yahaan aake kuch bhi likhdijiye, sub kuch shahiri banjayegi
yahaan aake kuch khaaneki zaroorat nahin mehsoos hoti, in hawaaon, saa(n)son, is jahaan ka rooh hi kaafi hai
yahaan rehekar kuch chaate hai hum, kuch khona bhi chaate hain
kuch cheez samaj na chaate hain hum, kuch cheez humko yaad aatihai
kuch cheez hamaari thi, hamaari hai, hamaare dil me se nikalke, humhi ke aage jhoom uthi
agar aapke dil mein koi baat phool ki tarha khilrahihain, to usse khilne do; mat sochiye
agar aapke ander koi baat hai, to aap dil ki zubaan se usse pehsh karo, chaahe koi samje ya na samje
agar koi lafz kaafi nahin lagte, to khudh ke lafaazon banaalo
khudh ki zubaan banaalo,
koi samje, ya na samje
A rough translation of courtyard, unedited:
in this place/world we can lose/forget everything of/about ourselves;
we can also learn everything
to make this kind of beauty, this type of light, this light, is needed
come here and write anything at all,
it will become poetry / anything written here becomes poetry
here, there is no need felt for eating,
these winds, breaths, the soul of this place/world is enough
staying/being here, we desire something;
also, something we wish to lose
some things we understand,
and some things, we remember
some things were ours, are ours;
some things come out from our own hearts
and have come alive/to dance in front of us
if something blossoms like a flower in your heart,
then allow it to blossom,
if there is something in you that wants to be said, then use the language of your heart to convey it,
whether anyone understands or not
if no words seem enough,
then make up your own words