hooked

abstract art background brown
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

i’m hooked,

these needles have pulled
at my heartstrings and
started to weave the
threads together in

a tight basket pattern
that binds me strand by strand in itself
and tugs unyieldingly
if i get too far away

it’s love

and i don’t know how it happened

ab teri mohabbat laagi, mere Saheb

it took years for feelings to grow
and now it has become clear
where i am always being pulled

shukhran lillah wal hamdulillah

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.

life’s horse

whitesheet
Click here for image source.

I can’t say that I want to grab life by the horns.
I think I would rather watch it come together
with time like the soft creases of a baby’s smile.

I would rather lay life out like a sheet,
smoothing the wrinkles with my palms
and tugging here and there to make it fit.

I don’t care to iron first.

~

I want to watch a plastic beach ball rise and fall in the waves,
being carried here and there, appearing not to move
until some hours later when only a speck is visible in the distance.

I just want to see what will happen if I let go of the reins.

Do I believe that life’s horse will find its way home?

path

Image source: http://www.forwallpaper.com/wallpaper/nature-nature-landscape-boards-timber-path-path-road-264461.html
Image source: http://www.forwallpaper.com/wallpaper/nature-nature-landscape-boards-timber-path-path-road-264461.html

Thank you for giving me the chance
to be the kind of person that I would like to think I am.

~

For some time we’ve known that our path would be unlike some others.

At times, we would look outwardly un-alive,
while our counterparts pledged to make the most of their precious time,
far away, on other continents.

There is a difference, between patience and complacence;
between passivity, and compassion.
If the difference is not apparent, an explanation will not help you.

We are, here and now, living for a day we cannot see
but we know is there.

We too, have a destiny,
and ours is one we trust was chosen for us, long ago.

If our days are spent moving even a grain of uncertainty off the pile
then over time, surely we will find what is buried underneath.

If our days are spent walking a single step at a time,
then we trust the destination will meet us halfway.

It is inevitable that we will go somewhere from here
and that we will know where we have been, when we leave.

when it rains

Rainy night. Image sourced from http://picjumbo.com/rainy-view-from-the-car-at-night/
Rainy night. Image sourced from http://picjumbo.com/rainy-view-from-the-car-at-night/

we become lovers again when it rains,
huddled up against a common unpleasance

songs we know crackle over the radio
not because this is vintage
but because the FM transmitter is acting up

we are twenty-first century people;
we’ve spent the past few weeks accomplishing much with our thumbs

tonight is like the olden days,
when we felt these songs together for the first time
and let them soak up the space between us.

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.

to know ourselves

Starry sky. Image source: http://www.howtogeek.com/114384/desktop-fun-starry-skies-wallpaper-collection-series-2/
Starry sky. Image source: http://www.howtogeek.com/114384/desktop-fun-starry-skies-wallpaper-collection-series-2/

To know ourselves,

we sought out the most difficult paths
that we might gain something from walking them

climbed mountains, not to climb them,
but for a glimpse of the sparkling sky

travelled the world, not to see it,
but to meet the companion within.

~

This is not the world, but the whole of a mirror in front of me;
what a world, that was made simply for me!

In the whole world i have tried to see myself,
yet the whole world seems not enough.

Tell me, where should i seek that mirror,
the most beautiful of all

that mirror, which reflects me with such truth,
that i myself become it?

Tell me, who is that most familiar companion,
the one who can tell me
everything
about myself?

~

This first part of this piece emphasizes worldly obstacles and challenges as opportunities to increase self-knowledge.

The second part can be understood as alluding to Islamic understandings of the relationship between creation and the Creator.

on patience and potential

Monarch butterfly. Image source: http://www.inquisitr.com/388618/southwest-airlines-flies-late-blooming-monarch-butterfly-to-texas/
Monarch butterfly. Image source: http://www.inquisitr.com/388618/southwest-airlines-flies-late-blooming-monarch-butterfly-to-texas/

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.

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).

white plains

Image source: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/506381
Image source: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/506381

the night sets in deeper as we trudge across these white plains
crisscrossed with patterns of tire tracks

i whisper a desperate prayer: keep my love safe, and warm

it is one thing in theory to imagine being without you;
quite another to make this trek on my own

a few flecks of snow cling to the tear streams on my cheeks

i clasp my hands together, keeping close the hope of seeing you again.

~

We may be only a few miles from our beloved, and our white plains may be only parking lots, but: the great love stories are happening here, with us, today. Never was there a better time to feel, to love, to miss; to be.

eulogy

when i think of her, i remember that:

my happiness, was her happiness

that she never wanted to stagnate,
but she tried not to control things too much

when inspiration came, she flowed with it,
and allowed it to flow into her

and when it didn’t appear,
she didn’t worry about chasing it

she tried her best to have faith in the little things,
and the big,

and to remember that her life,
was not the end.

~

How often do we think about how we want to be remembered once we are gone? What kind of people do we aspire to be, and who are we, when all is said and done? This is an unedited response to a “create your eulogy” exercise that I was fortunate enough to participate in, presented by a colleague and friend.

two poems: “Museum” and “courtyard, unedited”

Two poems: Museum and courtyard, unedited

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.

DSC_0412
View of the courtyard, looking up from the main floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.
Photos taken in and around the Aga Khan Museum, courtesy of Asif Virani, 2014.
View of the courtyard from the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.
DSC_0441
Up-close view of one of the metal screens/jaali on the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.

Museum

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?

~ ~ ~

courtyard, unedited

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, 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

keherahihai:

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

they say:

if something blossoms like a flower in your heart,
then allow it to blossom,
think not

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

make up your own language,

whether anyone understands, or not

taking in small sips all the time

Oil lamps. Image source: http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/lifestyle/this-holiday-season-bring-an-oil-lamp-into-your-home/
Oil lamps. Image source: http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/lifestyle/this-holiday-season-bring-an-oil-lamp-into-your-home/

~

This piece was inspired after attending a musical performance.

~

taking in small sips all the time

most days we trudge along, faces sunken,
the light behind our eyes, unlit

and then what comes along on the wings of a sweet melody
but the calling of something with which to cure our extinguishment

we strap ourselves in for the ride

what a thing it is to simply sit and be taken
to a place that exists only once in a while

~

fully saturated however,
we take up where we left off,
heavy and hardened, in pain

we were so close to becoming beautiful
but we surpassed ourselves in our glut

~

there can be a such thing as too much
heaven, too much light;
the flame rapidly fuelled is quick to die away

to stay free we must bend and turn,
dust off our delicate soul-wings,
and sleep;
eat only a little of the light,
and drink what has been given,
taking in small sips all the time.

 

out of all of the unseen

Imaged sourced from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141026.html.
Imaged sourced from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141026.html.

The process by which we have
come to resolve ourselves,
is truth. There was nothing quite
so peculiar about the manner
in which we came to be.

It would seem only natural
that where one horizon ends,
another should appear.

Now, whether our realities
are stitched together with
seams, or whether they
are made of the same fabric,
we cannot say.

What matters, is what
we have chosen to give effect to,
out of all of the unseen.
What we have believed in,
has come back to seek us out.

What we want to be true,
never had two ways about it.

If we can influence the
making of the world with
our choices, then our choices
are the stuff of the world,
and ourselves, something
apart from it.

~

This piece was written shortly after watching Interstellar, a 2014 film directed by Christopher Nolan.

For those who know the language, Tere Ishq Mein, recorded on Season II of Nescafe Basement, is to my mind another way, of many ways, of accessing similar ideas.

dissolving further all the time (2014)

Somewhere along Balmy Beach, Toronto, ON.  © Saara Punjani 2013.
Somewhere along Balmy Beach, Toronto, ON.
© Saara Punjani 2013.

each time we turned
to rise above this illusion of the finite,
we were met with a ceiling – not yet, not yet

we made steady ablutions
and we kept a hopeful heart
and still, we were not crowned to go on

~

a kite without a string
would be blown every which way on the ground;

a kite with a string
rises high in finite direction

yet, without the string
we could not have come
as far as we already have

how far must we rise before the string can be cut;
before we are unbound from the direction of our path?

how far must we rise before we are taken into the skies,
mere specks, dissolving further all the time?

~

on this day, listen, to the quiet,
as clearly, some things are being said

whether we move,
upward,
inward,
outward or forward,
we cannot begin to say

the tides pull us away,
that we forget you;

the tides push us so far
that we fall right in

here we have always been, unmoving in the movement,
immersed in the truth of your most impressive signs

let us dig deeper, look farther, stay awake longer;
let us continue searching for you

let us be so obviously engrossed,
mere specks, dissolving further all the time

the crispness of this season (2014)

Autumn, somewhere near Mont-Tremblant, QC.  © Asif Virani, 2014.
Autumn, somewhere near Mont-Tremblant, QC.
© Asif Virani, 2014.

the crispness of this season
asks to know both who we were
and who we are

~

the maple, the oak, watch over themselves with silent grace
as the leaves they laboured to produce,
and that kept them alive,
dry out and fall steadily away

 

what remains of our victories and defeats,
of our convictions and our epiphanies?

we have been able to keep nothing
material from our endeavours

 

who can say whether we leave the past
or if it leaves us;

whether we ourselves walked paths
or if they grew up beneath our feet?

 

we have had nothing
and nothing has been ours

and yet, we are not who we remember.

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 colours of our progression (2014)

The colours of our progression, somewhere outside Montreal. © Saara Punjani 2014.
The colours of our progression, somewhere outside Montreal, QC. © Saara Punjani 2014.

they say time waits for no one

~

never has there been enough time
to cultivate a sense of fearlessness;

always too much time
to make idols of inspiration

we have remained too young
to say that we live our lives with any grace;
too old to say, this is the end of our allotment

~

after all the hands have been shaken,
all the pages turned, the bellies filled

after all the smiles are spent
and all the comforts acquired,

we sit by the window to watch the colours of our progression

~

some things live out their course
and pass on and away in the height of their glory

but some of us are always green

we wait our turn;
we wait, to turn,
to mature into our very own shade of sienna

~

they say, time waits for no one

but for some, it never comes at all

the fire that consumes us (2014)

 

Fire in grate. Copyright Saara Punjani 2014.
Fire in grate. © Saara Punjani 2014.

 

some things hurt us more than all the others

~

sometimes, time dredges up the pain of our old selves;
memories of poisons we’ve drunk and those we’ve made

the beauty of our face is made unpleasant by our re-livings;
the heart burns and sobs, a prisoner to the scorching coals inside

we must remain perfectly still
lest we further fuel the fire that consumes us

everything we see, we have seen before,
and before that,

and now it flickers in our eye once again.

the centre (2014)

 

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

think, if someone were to give us a new eye,
a new way to see the soul in everything

~

we asked for peace so many times
that an entire abode was fashioned before our eyes

a place where peace literally throbs;
the heart and soul of a structure that is seemingly alive

 

none of us can be much of anything here

 

the night sky and the sky of the infinite
blend seamlessly into a protective garment

each encoded manifestation of truth
begs to be known, to be unified

 

something has shifted, here

— a new era emerges from the folds

~

it is what it is,
but also, what we bring to it;
this place, it opens all doors

how long would you seek truth
before participating in it,
how long would you look, before you saw?

 

the garden has grown up all around

 

once, there was nothing,

and then,

and then.

what you have always been (2014)

today, i am not writing;
i am hearing a language
that i do not quite understand

the vocabulary, given in flashes,
where veils, so to speak,
part to reveal a grander intention

than the one displayed
by you, or you,
or you

there is something else,
out there,
in there

~

one sense blends into another
and my heart becomes the crown of them all

i give myself over, one kernel at a time;

i deconstruct myself, one brick at a time
to see what is in the spaces between

there is something else out there,
in there

~

there is no reason
why i shouldn’t be able
to taste the freshness
of a moment

why
i shouldn’t be able
to  hear everything
that was ever said as truth

why i shouldn’t be able
to see through
to what remains
after the last of the bricks is removed

~

i don’t write these words
because i know any more than you know

i write them because
like you, i knew something once,
but i’ve forgotten

~

ask, to speak to you,
every moment, every breath,
every embrace

 

you are,
you are,
you are

what you have always been

and what you will always be

the places we’ve been (2014)

The places we've been. © Saara Punjani 2014.
The places we’ve been.
© Saara Punjani 2014.

what can we bring back
home from the places we’ve been?

~

when we travel, we leave behind
all of those things that have come to define us

the mirrors are different

the air is different

the light is different
and it bends around to show us more,

and less of what we thought we were

~

we come to the seaside
and make ourselves into a fine netting
so that the soul of the place will blow through

the sand grains wander
and still they make up miles of beach

we can’t hold on to anything for long
but we feel it ever so much:
what of any of this can we take home?

~

perhaps, i will bring only myself back to the beloved

perhaps, i, will be enough

a little more weathered,
a little less here, but,

with waves coming to rest on the sands of my heart,
and in my breathing, the winds over the sea

retreat (2014)

tonight, we are so quiet
that the heavens themselves reach
down to take us up, to take us in

for days we have retreated
into and away from ourselves,
at times ebbing, at times flowing

~

nothing and no one can give us what we already have

my heart’s tapestry is woven with your thread
but i was the patient weaver

i’ve known your melody for a time
but i’ve made my music longer

the gifts you gave were empty boxes
until the moment i opened them

~

tonight, i am the night
and the stars, and the breeze

i deepen

and then i fade
into the morning light

neither here nor there (2014)

today, i write of my state to the beloved,
with words, neither here nor there

~

your absence is felt so strongly
that i am awake while sleeping,
asleep while awake

my heart is nothing and an entire ocean:
waters flow through themselves and disappear

 

i rise and set in a weakening rhythm

 

i look for you so long in the distance  that i fade into it,
but still i am apart from you

 

~

 

in other language all of this
makes sense to me,
whether you understand it or not

if only my voice reaches to you,
that would be enough

 

your absence takes up residence in my eyes

 

every day i look down your road
to find you have gone farther and farther

every day i see my own eyes
and they ask me, where am i,

where am i?

to the beloved (2014)

A colour we cannot name.  © Saara Punjani 2014.
A colour we cannot name.
© Saara Punjani 2014.

the water of the stream flows to its end
and i, flow in all planes to the beloved

the beloved calls, and i dissolve into the wind;
the beloved exists, so i go

~

these waters gleam now and again silver,
now and again a colour we cannot name

once,

we think,

we think we glimpsed the beloved’s face reflected there

now we undertake this pilgrimage every day

~

the beloved is, so i am too,

for the moment

the water of the stream flows to its end

and i, on my way to the beloved