Category Archives: Poetry

This World

Some people have said it’s a scary time to be Muslim right now, for obvious reasons. And I don’t know about that so much, but I do think it is a scary time to be human. It’s a scary time to drive on the road or stop at a traffic light; it’s scary to be in your house, even with burglar bars; it’s scary to walk into a corner shop or even in the mall; it’s scary to even watch the news.

The world is a scary place.

Yesterday, I watched a video of a young boy, 13 years old, being thrown around and kicked and stripped naked by prison guards in a prison in Australia. It crushed me. It angered and infuriated and enraged me. I couldn’t do anything to fix it. Today I saw a video of a small, tiny baby, not more than a couple weeks old, being wildly swooshed around in a bucket of water, held by the arms. Crying painfully. And I cried. Painfully. Real tears. I was writhing in my seat and couldn’t stand the aching that video caused me. It aches now recalling it. I was screaming silently at my screen while I watched. And I was angry that I even saw it at all — what good did sharing the video do? Does it stop the abuse? We don’t even see the identities of the women, so what can be done?? Why did you share it if nothing can be done about it?! I didn’t need to see it!

All I wanted to do was grab the baby away from that woman, and hold him/her in my arms soothingly. But of course I couldn’t. Again, I couldn’t do anything to fix it.

Perhaps I am a weakling for reacting this way. Perhaps someone else might not have been as pained by those scenes and would laugh at my reaction. I can actually think of at least one person who would laugh at my reaction and think I’m a silly girl. Perhaps I am a silly girl. (I know many more people who would agree with that statement. Even I do.) But I never want to be a silly girl who is okay with children being treated badly. I never want to be a silly girl who feels relieved because “at least it’s not my child”. My goodness, when is it ever okay for any child to scream and cry because of the violence and cruelty of an adult?

I feel deeply pained right now because of all the violence and bad stuff going on everywhere. And I truly, deeply hate to add to it. I hate that this post is so sad and dark. But when it hurts I write. And I cry. I just don’t always share it with everyone on my blog. But this I felt like sharing. Because it’s a pain I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling.

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I wrote this earlier, after the crying subsided. It doesn’t have a title yet. It’s just words that spewed forth that I really hope makes some sense.

Words That Spewed Forth That I Really Hope Makes Some Sense

by Ruqaiyah Davids

The world is a cruel and scary place.
I don’t know where to escape.
How do I get away from all this hate?
It doesn’t seem to abate.
But I know it’s not too late.

And I don’t mean to sound fake and to further saturate this debate
With candy floss and rainbows after every time the rain flows.
These words are not meant to gloss over all that is wrong with this place and the human race.
Violence and hatred have become commonplace.
I know.
It’s quite a disgrace.
But I do believe that we only need to educate –
One another and ourselves.
Then we can alienate those who seek to create
All these people who have become irate,
Causing them to deviate,
Fighting for what they think is right.
And those who only propagate hate.
And those who only separate.
And those who leave children, betrayed
By the very people who should be a source of shade.

This world has worked hard to make me jaded;
Tired and weary –
This world is scary.
Many days I can’t stand the evil of it all.
But I am an optimist.
Try as the world might, it hasn’t given my spirit fright.
But, still, I don’t look at the world through rose-coloured glasses.
I’ve sat through enough of the world’s classes
Of chaos, mayhem, and fear.
My eyes are clear;
I see the evil that is here.
But these darn hues of pink and red won’t leave me alone.
My spirit is prone to the light in this world
Which it has over and over been shown.
But my optimism can sometimes feel like my prison
As my soul feels that sickeningly familiar rhythm
Of a child’s cry,
While people die,
And a nation occupies.

My optimism can be a prison of pain and heartbreak.
Each time the world shows me its colour of evil my heart quakes.
I have a difficult time believing it’s real.
My optimism builds up a defence.
It tells me all the murder, ignorance, blood, hate, child abuse is just a pretence.
A pretence for what?
I don’t know.
But the core of me needs to believe it’s just a show.
Even though I know.
I know.

See, I call myself an optimistic-realist.
I read the news and know that the truth is always skewed.
But my optimism keeps the depression subdued.
It keeps the tears from flowing so much
That I lose touch with all the goodness God has given.
There is so much good,
There is so much love,
There is so much kindness.
The darkness here cannot lead to my blindness.
I am compelled to believe that He Sees.
I cannot deny that with hardship comes ease.
But what acts are these?!
Stripping small boys in a prison naked?
Turning a whole nation of people into the most hated?
Why are we not more devastated?
Starvation and malnutrition are circulated!
And then we are placated
While we become vegetated
Through the media, fashion, films, games…
Don’t be fooled – it is all calculated.

Blog sign-off

 

Bowing Out

I made it five days into the glorious month of poetry before bowing out (gracefully?). Well, that’s not entirely true — I have still been writing this past week and I have a few poems to show for it, but none that I want to share right now.

NaPoWriMo is just not happening for me this year. Pieces of my mind are scattered in so many different places that I can’t quite gather them together long enough to compose something I like enough. And trust me, if I don’t like it enough, you’re sure not going to. Perhaps after some revision to those poems I’ll share them with you at a later time. I’ll still keep writing for the rest of the month, naturally. Will try to keep up with each day as much as I can, but what I really want to do is focus on more extended pieces of writing for now. So we’ll see where that goes. But besides that, what I even more really want to do (I know that isn’t right, but it just sounds so much more fun — why can’t we have fun with words?) and what I am doing a lot of right now, is concentrating a lot more on developing good writing in my students. And that takes a lot of time and energy. More than you’d think. So that also takes away from time given to my own writing. But I love it so much! And don’t worry, I won’t teach my students to write incorrect sentences like my one above — but I will teach them to experiment and have fun with the language and perhaps come up with their own funny ways of saying things that are otherwise just boring.

As a final salute to NaPoWriMo from me for this year, I’ll share one of the poems I wrote this past week — just to not leave you with nothing.

It was supposed to be a love poem to an inanimate thing. And this is sort of a love poem… though not quite.

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To My First Car

by Ruqaiyah Davids

I never liked you much.

In fact, I could hardly stand you.

And it was no secret too.

You were unwanted and unloved—

A harsh, cold, ugly truth,

Just like your harsh, cold, ugly exterior.

But you were needed.

I needed you like you needed a good paint job—

Without you my life would not have been the same.

Without you, I would have been stuck,

And alone.

You gave me freedom;

A temporary escape on the journey between two worlds.

You gave me reflection and introspection.

You weren’t very well-liked by my friends or my family.

And I’m not sure if you know this,

But they often made fun of you.

My sister hated you—

She always complained

When having to climb into your hard, unwelcoming backseat,

Which was a mighty task considering you only had two doors.

But I wonder how she would have got around without you…

Or how I would have.

I would always defend you when they’d mock you.

Because even though you were loud and rough,

And dusty and dented,

And peeling and painful to look at—

You were mine.

You were my first.

You came to me at a time in my life that I did not want you,

But I needed you.

And that counts for so much more.

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The Golden Shovel

Hi there! Today’s poem is an interesting one. It’s called a “golden shovel” apparently, which is where you take an already existing poem and you use each word in that poem as a last word for each line in your own new poem. Sound confusing? Just wait, it’ll make sense in a minute.

This is the already-existing poem I used:

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–

It gives a lovely light!

Edna St. Vincent Millay

So look at each word in this poem above and then look at the last word in each line of my poem below. See it? It’s the whole of First Fig right there. Pretty cool, but was pretty tricky too.

Enjoy.

Oh, The Light!

by Ruqaiyah Davids

As I began this journey of my heart – and to my

Heart – I felt warmed with happiness as I became swarmed by the light of this candle.

It illuminates my path and my past; the want for more burns.

I stand looking down the way ahead, and looking back, and at

Once, I want to go both

Forward and back. The questioning never ends.

To go forward would be wise, to go back would be dangerous, yet it

Plagues me so, the wonder of what lies there. Will

It ever be enough? I wonder and I wonder, not

Living now but impossible to live then, too. It’s been long since I last

Knew where the road was headed; long since I journeyed on my own. But now the

Enlightened trail is darkened. The sure way is shrouded by night.

There lingers still a faint light. A glimmer. It is dark still but

There is light! Ah,

There is always light. Sometimes only a spark, sometimes only a flicker, but sometimes a fire. My

Path has not yet ended. I will travel on with friends and I will travel on with foes;

Both will help me to my ultimate end. There is purpose to it all. And

There is light. There is still light. Oh,

There is light! It is small, it is shy. It is not yet strong or bold enough to show itself proudly. My

Thoughts linger; they sit for a while and breathe in the smell of old friends.

They take time looking around. Much too familiar, and yet much too strange. It

Is still there – the path. Waiting for me. It gives

A fair chance. But too much longer and the light might dim. Too much longer and a

Wind might change the course. But for now it remains. And how lovely

It is know and to feel the light.

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Let the Children Play

This is something very important to me, though it’s not something I would have thought to write about in this form. It kind of just found its way out of my head and onto my laptop screen while thinking of what to write about in today’s poetry prompt by the folks over at NaPoWriMo. This style is called a lune, which is like a haiku, except that instead of counting the syllables in a line, you count the words. And instead of 5-7-5 (as in a haiku), it’s 3-5-3, i.e.. first line of the stanza has 3 lines, second has 5 lines, third has 3 lines.

So the reason this topic is very important to me is because all too often I see adults around me telling children to be quiet or to not be “so loud” when all they’re doing is playing — loudly. Adults get upset when toys get smashed loudly to the floor or into each other in a fight between the army man and a car (odd fight to have, I know, but hey, it happens). And naturally, there are sound effects that go with that epic fight. But the children are told not to make so much noise; “play quietly”. This upsets me. Deeply. Let the children make a noise! Let the children hum and sing loudly, or mutter nonsense to themselves if they want to! Let them play! For goodness sake! No, literally… for goodness sake. I mean, when children have the freedom to play and have fun and make a noise — and let’s be honest, they all go hand-in-hand, because how much of fun can you have quietly in a corner by yourself, and how much can you play without some sound effects and shrieks of laughter? — they grow into whole people, confident people, positive people, intelligent people, kind people. And isn’t that just good for everyone?

So, let the children play.

Source: http://passionatelycuriousinkindergarten.blogspot.com/2014/01/report-cards-love-stories-about-learning.html
Source: http://tinyurl.com/q9ec5ce

Let the Children Play

by Ruqaiyah Davids

We tell them

They’re naughty when they’re noisy.

Ain’t that crazy?

Children are meant

To be noisy and dirty;

It’s their journey.

We shouldn’t stop

Them from shouting in play;

They’re young today.

Before long though,

Our rules and reprimands will

Make them still.

Children will be

Too scared to have fun—

Damage we’ve done.

They won’t be

Young for much longer, sadly.

This is reality.

When they’re grown,

They’ll be shells because we

Didn’t let’em be.

I cheated a bit on that last line there. I know “let’em” isn’t the conventional way of shortening “them”, but I would have had one word more than I should. So I whipped out that ol’ poetic licence I have stuffed in my wallet and used it.

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Tick Tock

This one isn’t quite finished yet. I’ve been sitting with it since yesterday (which is why I didn’t post anything yesterday), because it wasn’t ‘right‘ yet. I don’t yet know what will finish it or how to finish it, but I’ve decided that that’s okay. I’ll share it with you anyway. This is what it is for now.

Time

by Ruqaiyah Davids

The second hand of an ancient clock;

Listen closely for the far-away knock.

It kills, it steals, and it heals;

The future is what time reveals.

Forever caught in time’s wicked trap;

It is somewhere in the middle that the stream and the storm overlap.
Tick, tick, tock.

Tick, tick, tock.

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A Delayed Day Two

It’s day 4 of April, yes, but this was the poem I wrote for Day 2 of NaPoWriMo but just haven’t posted until now.

Quotes-Own Wings quote wallpaper

Wings

by Ruqaiyah Davids

In the tower of tenderness the wings unfold,

Slowly,

Gently.

Until they’re sure and strong.

They unravel and spread their beauty.

Boldly.

Courageously.

The wind carries them,

To parts unknown.

They travel with faith and with hope.

They soar and glide;

There is no end to what they may find.

They will reach the ends of the earth

With faith and with hope.

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It’s April!

And you know what that means, right?

Time for me to come out of hiatus! Why? Because it’s National Poetry Writing Month!

Yes, I know it’s pretty despicable that I’ve last updated pretty much a year ago (I don’t really suppose that my one lone post last October counts for much). But… uhm… Okay, I have no acceptable excuses. I’m all out. I’m just really terrible at time management. Like, really terrible. And way too easily distracted. Like, while typing this post right now, do you have any idea how many times I’ve navigated away from this window? To Google something that has just popped into my head that I’ve meant to Google for a while now; to talk to my mom; to reply to an e-mail; to drink some water… I’m terrible.

But anyhoo, here’s a poem that will hopefully make you forget all about that! Yay.

Write it out!
Write it out!

NaPoWriMo Day 1: The Kind of Lives We’re Living

by Ruqaiyah Davids

What kind of lives are we living?

Weren’t we meant for more?

Our innocence and youth has just gone through the door.

Nothing left for us to fight for anymore.

You had big dreams

Of simple things.

Not important any longer, it seems.

I had visions of happiness;

I saw days of what-seemed-like-bliss.

I never thought it would be like this.

We were meant for more,

We were meant to be better.

You were meant for greatness

And happiness.

We are meant to have goodness.

What kind of lives are we living?

Stuck in the past.

It was not meant to be like this.

It was not meant to be like this.

We’ve got to stop wishing.

And missing.

We’ve got to start living.

And giving

From the deepest parts of ourselves.

Stop grieving for a life lost,

One that was never meant for us.

The kind of life we should be living

Is still waiting.

To be honest, I’m not all too fond of this poem. I don’t hate it, I just feel that it needs (quite a bit of) tweaking. I suppose I’ll get back to that some time, but in the quest of writing a poem a day, I wanted to get this up for Day 1. Day 2 will be up shortly. Yes, yes, I know it’s the 2nd of April already! Hush!

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NaPoWriMo Day 30: Speaking in Opposites

Remember, as a child, when you would play that game where you’d say something cool/weird/funny/scary to your brother/sister/friend, and they would look at you with excitement or awe written all over their face, and then you’d wait a bit just for effect and then say: “In the opposites!” and laugh your head off? Remember those days? Or is my childhood the only one which has those moments? Because then this would be a little awkward…

The last prompt of NaPoWriMo requested us to take an original poem written by someone else and to change as many words in the poem as we could to mean the opposite of what it originally says.

I chose As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes.

As I Grew Younger

by Ruqaiyah Davids

It was a short time ago.
I have never remembered my reality.
But it is here now,
Behind me,
Dull like the moon—
My reality.
And then the wall sank,
Sank fast,
Fast,
Around me and my reality.
Sank until it touched the ground—
The wall.
Brightness.
I am white.
I stand up in the brightness.
Still the darkness of my reality behind me,
Below me.
More than the thin wall.
More than the brightness.
My feet!
My light feet!
Mend together the wall!
Lose my reality!
Help me to piece together this light,
To rebuild this day,
To mend this brightness
Into a single light of moon,
Into a single firm reality
Of moon!

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NaPoWriMo Day 29: “I Love it When You Talk Foreign”

Yes, I know it’s very late. Very, very late. And it’s not even April anymore. But well, it’s here anyway. Read it or leave it.

(I know you’ll read it.)

So NaPoWriMo originates in the U.S, and the ‘national’ part of the term refers to the nation of America. But even so, there are many, many poets and participants in the challenge who are not from America. Because it’s not only Americans who love poetry. And I am one of those ‘foreigners’ who gate-crashed the party. So the lovely people over at NaPoWriMo decided to honour us by asking everyone to write a poem which contains at least five words of a different language. I chose Arabic. It’s the closest I’ve come to speaking a foreign language–though, truly, it’s not foreign to me. It’s the language of my people, of my Book, of my land, and of my Lord.

I’ll be leaving for ‘umrah soon, in shaa Allah. The minor pilgrimage to the holy land of Makkah (note: ‘Makkah, not ‘Mecca’). A journey my heart can hardly wait for anymore. And this poem is about that.

Sabah an-Nur

It’s almost time to go
To a land my heart already knows.
Ahlan wa sahlan!
I will stand on the Mountain of Light
And see the rising of the sun.
Sabah al-khayr!
Wa sabah an-nur!
Joy upon joy!
Light upon light!
My heart will rejoice at the sight
Of the Ka’bah,
Standing tall and strong.
It’s been there all along.
And I will prostrate
With my head and my heart
And pray for a new start.

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A close-up picture of the Ka’bah taken from the ground, looking up.
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The Ka’bah from afar, with hundreds–very possibly thousands–of people performing their religious rituals around it.
Jabal an-Nur, The Mountain of Light. The mountain where the Cave of Hira is found.
Jabal an-Nur, The Mountain of Light. The mountain where the Cave of Hira is found. Where Light was found in a time of darkness.

Translations:

Ahlan wa Sahlan: This is a common Arabic phrase used to welcome someone, however, its literal translation is not just ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’, as it is widely used. For a better understanding of the meaning of the term, go here. Or here, for a much more in-depth look at the term, its origin, and some very interesting and enlightening information on its implications.

Sabah al-khayr: Good morning.

Sabah an-nur: A reply to ‘sabah al-khayr‘, literally meaning ‘morning of light’.

Ka’bah: A sacred building in Islam; the direction to which all Muslims, all around the world, face while praying. For more reading on this, go here.

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NaPoWriMo Day 28: The Black Heart

The Black Heart

Her black heart beats
Quietly.
The sound is almost indiscernible,
Strangled by all her black words.
Black words muffled by black verbs.
What is left for her in this black world
For which she lives?

Grey spots of dishonesty and hypocrisy
Cement her black heart.

The black hurts.
The more it hurts
The more she spurts
Forth black words,
Littered with traces of red pain,
Oozing from her veins.
And it is hard for her to refrain;
She paints the walls
In her hurricane
Of mistakes,
Breaks
And the masked face.

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