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.

human

rory-bjorkman-17135

Photo by Rory Björkman on Unsplash

~

O mankind !
Be careful of your duty to your Lord
Who created you from a single soul
and from it created its mate
and from them twain hath spread abroad
a multitude of men and women

Holy Qur’an 4:1

~

I don’t know who you are
nor do I need to know

but I do know what makes you alive,
what carries hope inside,

what hurts when there is pain,

what feels elation at the
sight of the beloved one.

~

Let us recognize each other,
not as the other

but as the mirror by which
we judge the degree to
which our own souls
can expect salvation.

~

When you cry, know that I do too,
if simply on the inside.

There is something undeniably natural
in coming together over what it means to
be human.

~

I don’t care for the past
or for memories gone,

but I do care for the
essence within me and within you,

which ultimately,
and most hopefully,
in all the deepest hope and truest dream

are going again to a shared plane,
where joys are evident, and love
is the air we breathe.

 

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?

No artist

beachnight
Click here for image source.

 

Have you ever wanted to feel differently without changing who you are?

~

I am no artist.

I take what is known and repurpose it,
I take what can be deduced and write long sentences explaining how to get there

I justify my existence because I am asked to

because that is the way the world works.

~

When I was caught up in it all, I saw a glimpse of the core of the core of a diamond
Where a single particle of light entered and became a wave, reflecting ever internally without end.

I stopped breathing, then
My eyes were open, but unnecessary

And I heard the music.

~

When I was tired I lay down and slept like there was nothing else
When fed, I lamented having eaten

When I was cold I longed for summer sun
When warm, I threw open my cloak to embrace harsh air

When I was rich I was no different than when I was poor

When I worked out of fear, I came so far
When I overcame fear, I stalled, thinking where to go next

The push from the outside, the crack of a whip has always been stronger than
This inner master

~

I can do anything, if asked
I can make anything, if told to

I can warm your heart talking to you for a few moments, in a place where we can feel,
under the stars with coffee in hand

I can help you but I can’t help me.

 

peace, peace, peace

 image source: http://faxo.com/high-mountain-top-25051
image source: http://faxo.com/high-mountain-top-25051

 

There is something the matter with each of us.

Some of us weep in our homes, too “busy” to face our brethren.
Some of us are always on about the next best thing.

We may be neighbours but we resist becoming friends.

~

Where will you be, friend?

Where you will be at peace.

Where peace is friendly and friendship brings peace.

 

Peace, peace, peace.

 

Nothing else we ever asked for;
nothing else we ever knew.

 

It’s not that hard is it?

Peace must be somewhere, like a river or the sun;
Rising, now and again.

Why would we have to work so hard to get it,
and so hard to stay within it?

 

Once you get to a certain point,
it won’t be about what you do
but how you handle what’s done to you.

 

Peace, peace, peace.

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).

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.

 

the people, us, and them

Image sourced from:  http://www.alfoart.com/golden_apple_tree_1.html
Image sourced from: http://www.alfoart.com/golden_apple_tree_1.html

Our apples are golden from your side of the orchard,
but here they are simply red like blood.

We pick what grows and move to make our bread.

When that bread turns beautifully to gold in our mouths,
we know it was only because of a prayer.

~

What can we rush along, dearest,
not the opening of a leaf, or eyes, or heart.

What of a friend, what of an enemy;
what of someone who is just like us?

What kind of strong will can we rush to bend into an embrace,
the strongest sign of an acceptance of the soul of the other?

~

It has been a long time since we pained, dearest,
since the fruit we picked so lovingly
turned to sour nothingness in our mouth.

It has been a long time since we rushed around
banging our heads on the walls,
opening books to pages we understand for comfort.

It has been a long time since we withdrew into our own,
since the trickling of ego was felt through the holes
of our pretty heart-basket.

~

They ask to know who we are right now,
to know what we would tell them, to check for hypocrisy —
to see if we feel any pain.

But we do not recall anything that has happened to us,
nothing that truly affected our minds.
Another grayness dawns, clear and cold.

If there was pain, we learned how to talk to it
long ago, as children. If there was joy
we sent it off to come again.

Won’t they understand that we are nothing right now,
that there is nothing material left to share?

We only wither and unfurl quietly as per our season,
and we are one and no one all again.

~

This piece is a reflection on our relationships with other people. How do we understand ourselves, and how much common humanity do we truly perceive in others, in “them”? What do we use to define ourselves, and what of those definitions do we use to relate to others? How do others view our blessings and “misfortunes” in relation to their own?

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 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

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

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

to speak of this, is to be silent (2014)

to speak of this, is to be silent

~

this night bears witness of the re-emergence of i
who extracts the self from the folds of us all
to take up seat in the presence of the beloved

 

who can stay locked up when the beloved comes to call;
who can refuse the sweet companionship?

every surface on which the beloved’s gaze falls,
loves, breathes, swings and sways in rapture

~

no one taught me how to find you
but you taught me
by the pen

no one told me i already knew you
but you tell me
over again

inside me, whole seas part
to reveal the way
to your shore

i have come upon myself
in a way
like never before

~

the shores of my heart (2014)

i close my eyes and listen for the arrival
of the beloved on the shores of my heart

~

where is the beloved now, even he does not know;
the horizon, an ever-unreachable illusion across the vast empty sky

i linger still, in the sand of our memories
which even now is freshly turned with the tread of soft feet

every wave which comes to bump up against my heart
sings a slightly different song than the one before it

in every stone i see the face of the beloved looking back at me;
in every wave is the depth of his eyes

each wave comes asking to move me,
to share news of the beloved’s journey from afar

do i want to know what news they carry of the beloved?

~

the last vessel has sailed from my shores

and there are none who can carry me across myself

i cannot send anyone after the beloved
but i take comfort in knowing
that i see the very same horizon
as he

~

i am quiet;
i am still

a stone thrown could not change this

and neither could one pour more water
to move me

 

this fresh instance (2014)

"That all men may know his work." Inscription in the ceiling of the Royal Ontario Museum. © Saara Punjani 2013.
“That all men may know His work.” Inscription in the ceiling of the Royal Ontario Museum. © Saara Punjani 2013.

who can say we have no need of a poet?

how many times we need eat the same message
yet certainly it tastes better when fresh!

~

let me bake this fresh instance,
let me sing this fluttering green;
let me whirl the tunic of my heart round;
let me paint this golden sheen

let me make this message something you know,
something you recognize;
something that knocks on the door of your stillness
and rouses you into a poet too

 

 

the coming of a light (2014)

Dawn, or dusk. © Saara Punjani 2014.
Dawn, or dusk. © Saara Punjani 2014.

the earth we tilled with your mercy
is covered in a layer of dust

ourselves, producers of little rain,
dry in the eye and empty in the chest

i, never an oasis but always home to green,
turn to sand carried swiftly away

~

at times i wonder,
am i rumi or am i shams?

am i to receive
or will i ever inspire,
not as me,
but of you?

will a day come when i
am finally what you intended,

when i am no longer a sum of ingredient?

~

keep me apart here,
i have no complaint,

but please, please tell me this:

am i here to await the coming of a light,

or am i here to myself become one?

what sun shines here (2014)

a flower blooms steadily in love:

desiring for sun to gaze upon its every part

yearning for dew to slide slowly over each curve

 

at the peak of its love, each petal arches so strongly

that it breaks free of everything and goes on

~

what sun shines here, a dusty lamp;
what morning wet, a mere drop

tell me, if i break free,
will you place a palm underneath and carry me?

unlidded (2014)

a power enters our vessel this night

we stand, electrified
as a force from elsewhere courses through

~

for months we have opened this door and that

looking for the place we once stumbled upon
looking for the feeling which could not be stored

now here, under crescent moon and darkened sky
where soft waves keep consistent rhythm

here, is a glistening sign

~

what has taken hold of us this time?

the sky as though unlidded;
ourselves, similarly so

what stirs the trees to move as they do?
what force leaves its mark in the sand?

this power both beckons and warns

~

once again we are on the verge of sleeplessness,
once more, on the edge of your cliff