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by Rutgers University Muslim Students Association

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Poetry

When I First Fell In Love

When I First Fell in Love

The fading topaz walls,

the pictures of flags and names scribbled by a four-year old girl,

attempting to make a new home hers.

I remember the busy streets with police sirens,

the high rusty gates of the abandoned garden.

The smell of cous-cous and mint tea,

perfuming the air.

The sweet humming of my mother’s voice filled our ears,

like Sirens playing to Homer in his journey back to Ithaca.

Take me back to Itaca.

Take me back to Brooklyn and Jersey City,

where my young spirit was like a delicate flower,

breaking through the impenetrable concrete sidewalks of merciless cities.

Take me back to my first ever poem that I wrote in Kindergarten for show and tell.

Take me back when I first fell in love with the way words,

caressed the crinkles on that cafeteria napkin.

The times I let the brilliance of my ballpoint pen escape.

Take me back to when I started my affair with language,

and possessed poetry as my mistress.

I am a poet from those brick buildings in Brooklyn,

a poet from the Saharan village on the outskirts of Oran,

a poet who still keeps flags and scribbled names

on her fading topaz walls,

that shadow her pharmacy textbooks,

and her emerald-green prayer rug.

The night will strike again,

through this mind’s mist,

deadening everything I hear.

 

That wanton smile

maneuvers to your face;

those rosy, sweet lips

I shall never taste.

 

Do not entice me

with your warped core.

 

 

Do not ensnare me;

release, from this torn mind

your image.

 

 

Do not love me,

find your lord,  your peace.

 

Keep from me

 

your wicked art,

your decrepit “heart”. 

 

By Hasan Habib

Patience

How do you explain patience to an impatient soul?

Is it like the persistent waves that hit the shore?

Or is it like a mother’s forgiveness to the ones she bore?

 

Unanswered prayers and agony fill your heart,

And doubts of ever achieving your goals depress you.

For now, the world may seem so very cold.

How can I be left so alone?

 

How do you explain patience to an impatient soul?

Is it like the messenger who preached a thousand years?

Or is it like an unwed maiden waiting for her prince?

Even after she had four kids?

 

To the single brother who works for a house full of dreams,

To the single mother who prays for a house full of hope,

To the children who cry for a house unoccupied by a foreign regime,

To the worshipper who worships for a house in paradise.

 

How do you explain patience to an impatient soul?

By Sara Zaimi

Depression: A Muslim Taboo

It consumes you
Engulfs your mind
Your mind becomes captive
Prisoner to the demon clenching to your thoughts
And you know that they know
And you know that they can tell
But shh, don’t talk about it.

You tell them, you try to explain
And soon, they’re picking at your pieces,
cast aside as damaged goods on a clearance rack
This button, that lever,
they say it’s so simple.

Smile, they say
And you try to tell them,
that your face might be stuck in a perpetual state of numb
Smile, is a foreign word,
whose syllables you’ve forgotten how to pronounce.
Get up and live, they say
As if you haven’t yet explained that….you can’t.
That you can’t.
That breaths feel like boulders on your chest,
steps like mountains to climb.
So you say these things,
but you know that they know
And you know that they can tell
But shh, don’t talk about it.

After all, what would you think?

After all, what would you think?
Your uncle, and your aunt’s brother third cousin,
and the random aunty in the masjid.
Your forth cousin twice removed is surely important.
Their opinions clearly matter more than the importance of your ability to speak openly.

So day in, and day out
You wear your mask
You remind yourself, one step, another step, one step.
All the while feeling like they are dragging along.

Because you are flesh
Wound after wound
Plunged deep, far
You are wound
Numb to the pain of daily struggle
Because really, you know that they know
And you know that they can tell
But shh, you must never speak about it.

By Inayah Lakhani

Power of Love

Though omnipresent force, some call it weak.

Soft and hard, could it be both false and true?

Some say it’s no more than a rosy cheek:

Why, then, is a flower so hard to subdue?

 

Is it a power only in its action?

No, for it lives beyond physical border,

A long journey, sublating mere attraction,

A deep wound, needing absence of order.

 

From the tall cradle to the deep earthy bed,

Its presence will continue to live on:

Among the clash of steel it remains undead,

In a world of fire, it has always shone.

 

Yes, its name is that which makes one insane:

My fond heart, is its pleasure worth its pain?

 

By Hasan Habib

Sweet are you,

in humbling display.

I feel you trailing me,

and shy away.

 


Why do you grasp me?

I don’t feel you, yet

you ensnare me.

 

Why do you run,

endlessly?

Your beauty, always shadowed,

does not age.

 

Do not take me,

leave me be,

 

squanderer,

pilferer,

 

leave me be.

The Things I Carry

I carry the bittersweet memories of living in different cities, of my childhood innocence that left me long ago.

I carry lipstick in my purse because I’ve been taught that it’s classy, at least that’s what they told me so.

I carry poems because they entertain me much more than screens that broadcast humanity’s lows.

I carry the whispers I caught from others that criticize me to the very last.

I carry a reserved soul because I’ve seen too much evil to let go.

I carry the burden of someone else’s happiness that pressures me to be perfect, a motivation unsurpassed.

I’ll carry you if you carry me, at least that’s what I’ve been told.

I carry a pen that strikes paper like bullets shooting at targets during war.

I carry the languages of French, Spanish, Algerian, and English because culture is all I have ever known.

I carry my wooden spoon that my father gave me when I was eight, because cooking is a form of love from the soul.

I carry the regrets of all the insults I have ever said.

I carry a cup filled with black coffee, no milk or sugar, just the way I like it; bitter.

I’ll carry you if you carry me, at least that’s what you told me so.

I carry the wisdom of generations that have tumbled down through proverbs from ancient folks.

I carry the oppression of the subjugation of myself to adhere to cultural restrictions and contradictions that is society’s big hoax.

I carry that firm personality that resembles the first teacher that ever taught me how to read.

I carry the thoughts of wondering what did I do to deserve God’s mercy.

I carry a transcript with ‘good’ grades that seek to pursue your pleasure and to repay you, mother, for the sacrifices; don’t worry I remember.

I’ll carry you if you carry me, at least that’s what I’ve been told.

I carry the shoes that guided my feet through the halls of darkness to light as a lost soul.

I carry the quarrels we had like lovers in a parking lot.

I carry the books of Hosseini, Qabbani, and all the authors I have ever known.

But, the Quran that trembles in my right hand still strikes me as if I’ve never read it before.  

I carry the picture of a graceful old woman draped in white in an olive garden that I met long ago.

May Allah swt have mercy on her soul.

I’ll carry you if you carry me, at least that’s what I’m telling you so.

I’ll carry your baggage and all our dirty laundry because

mon coeur comprend et vous aime.

Helpless Love

A mother’s love is strong
Yet powerless at best
Quenches the thirst for so long
But has no water for the rest

A dreadful inquisition
Who lives and who dies
A mother’s impossible decision
Of tending to which child’s cries

The prayer is always the same
Only a different body to discern
“From God they came,
And to God they will return”

Fluorescent bombs light the night sky
As a mother prepares her final goodbye

–By Ziyad R

Voice of Love

I do not blossom,

I am frigid, cold,

awaiting the sun’s rays;

I hear silence setting

on a barren hillside, but

joyous noise at the core.

I sit here, alone.

I sit here, the only one

true to my name.

I sit here, watching

the mimics as they leave.

They get plucked,

only to die soon.

Will I be plucked?

I am latent,

I am forever.

I am unjust, yet

sometimes I bring joy.

I am overlooked

in false pretense.

I am powerful,

I am quick, I am

Not what I am.

I am Love.

–Hasan Habib

War

War is like a beautiful woman luring in the youth,

Their boots thread the Earth and their hearts desire to reap its fruits.

And when the surge of courage diminishes and the bombs hail high,

Every young soul shall sigh.

War then becomes an old wrinkled, ugly, hag

That no one desires to be with or can hold onto its treacherous battle flag.

There are no more boots left that thread the Earth and no more hearts that desire.

And war has left mothers tears dry and their cries of “ya ibni” held in the heavens up high.

War has left the riches of cities buried under ashes,

And love lost in the midst of smoke from brutal, crimson clashes.

War has spilled blood on the dry Earth like numerous broken wine caskets.

Yet, we yearn war like war is everlasting.

War is a disease that the Prophet pbuh warned about.

So do not desire it, but if you must be brave and do not doubt.

For as the gates of hell break loose when war is here,

the gates of the seven heavens invite you in as your soul comes near.

Sara Zaimi

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