Brave Girl, Chapter One

author’s note: this poem has elements of magic (entirely attributed to evil in the poem) that serve as metaphors in the story. What those metaphors are…is entirely up to you to interpret. But this story is meant to outline the journey from abuse, heartbreak, and trials to understanding and redemption.

Brave Girl,

She walked a path for miles

a path of brick and stone

tree limbs bending downwards

green leaves overgrown

Along the path she met a Lad

His eyes were cloudy grey

His hair was red and brown,

Yet glinted golden in the day

They linked arms and began to walk,

new love bubbling from their easy talk,

Easier and easier they began to be,

Walking over mountains and valleys,

and along the pale shores of the sea.

Within his eyes Girl saw her life,

And he promised with words that he would stay

So with fingers entwined like wanton vines,

They cast their doubts away.

One day on Girl’s hand,

Lad placed a glass band

that sparkled with his love

And with eyes wet and smiles wide,

The promised Groom and promised Bride

Both thanked God above.

But as years flit by, as dragonflies do,

the Girl began to doubt,

For as much as he was there with her

She began to feel without,

Girl felt love like burning fire

but began to fear her young Lad’s ire.

He said with words he loved her much,

And would never leave her side,

But often swatted away her touch,

And became defensive of his pride.

The path became no longer smooth,

It jutted rock and stone,

And though their discomfort she tried to soothe

Lad’s confidence was thrown.

He stumbled over root and stone,

Due to attention little paid,

When stifled by vines overgrown,

Refused the young Girl’s aid,

At last, for fear, there came a day,

When Lad’s color began to abate

His eyes and hair, his skin so fair,

Met the mirthless bite of fate.

For Lad lost hope,

and could not cope

with Girl or path no more,

And through the trees, he spied a space

And left through it like a door.

Girl cried tears bittersweet

For she knew she could not follow,

And though in her chest, her heart still beat

She knew within was hollow.

Girl felt a cold, thin vice,

upon her cold, thin hand

And looked upon with grief

At Lad’s still-sparkling band.

Girl continued on the rocky trail,

But often sat to weep,

Whispering his name brought no avail,

and memory’s wounds were deep.

But her grief was woven

with a stronger thread than she,

One night it drew an evil coven,

Of curious witches three.

Cackling, they asked her,

“What hath befallen thee?”

Girl jumped and walked much faster

So frightened now was she,

“We know the burden of your heart!”

Called the three magicians,

“Fear us not, let us help you,

For we are but mere physicians.”

But Girl kept her stride

And said “I have no money, nor trust for witches.”

And the witches, cackling, gleefully replied

“We offer only aid and have no use for riches.”

Girl then stopped and turned to face the Three,

For her heart was but pain and anguish,

And an end she could not see.

“What aid you offer, O stalking witches?

And what your price, then, if not riches?”

The witches laughed with victorious glee,

And at our Girl did smile,

“We wish to end your suffering,

And bring back your Lad a while.”

“Lad?” Girl cried, “How can you know?

Lad, who hath hurt me so?”

“My dear sweet Girl, your tale we know,

It hath been spun, so long ago.

It is an age-old tale, timeless and grand,

Our price, sweet Girl, is your sparkling band.”

Girl thought she felt a warning in her heart

Though Lad was no longer there with her,

With the band she should not part,

“Your band, my dear, is what we seek,

If it is Lad that you desire,

For the path does not favor the weak,

And companion-less made dire.”

Girl felt a pull inside her soul,

And Lad came to her mind,

His smile that had made her whole,

A love impossible to find.

“A question, witches, if ask I may,

before I give my band away?”

The witches looked at the sparkling ring

with hunger in their eyes,

“My dear, sweet girl, ask anything,

Anything that rests your mind.”

“What use have you of this sparkling treasure?

It is but mere memory,

It has no value beyond its measure,

For its meaning is known only to me.”

“Worry not of these things!

It is that which we require.

Forget your sentiments of that ring!

And we will bring you the one whom you desire!”

So with care she slipped the band away,

Off her cold, thin hand,

She gripped it, shining, in her palms a moment,

then gave away her band.

But the wind blew then,

a cold, strong, gust

That blew the band to the rocky ground,

and shattered it to dust.

Horrified and terrified, Girl began to retreat,

But the witches gathered around her,

And with vines  tied her hands and feet

“I cannot explain this! Let me go!”

Cried the Girl, fighting against the biting vines,

“I cannot explain it! I do not know!”

But the witches cared not for Girl’s cries and pleas,

they tightened the bonds and pinned her body

to the trunk of a leafless tree.

“Liar! Traitor! Deceptive thing!

We want the band, or you’ll dearly pay!

Repair that sparkling, shining ring,

Or we’ll cut your Lad’s head away!”

“It was a gift of mere glass,

No value had it, but sentiment!

I cannot repair the shattered thing,

You must accept its detriment!”

The witches gathered to consider this fact,

The band was gone, shattered to dust,

But the girl was whole and young and brave,

To claim her youth, kill her they must!

The witches, seething, drew a long knife,

Crooked and forked, and dripping dark red,

“If you wish to save Lad, you’ll pay with your life!

“Either pay with your blood, or we take his head.”

Girl trembled in fear against the tree,

And shutting her eyes she tried to see,

One last, precious memory…

End of Chapter One.

Nesha Usmani

2013

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Sunday

Sunday came,

and with it rose a slow, bright sun.

Dragging rays of exhaustion over cities,

over houses, over beds,

and over her.

And she awoke with heavy-hearted fatigue

that kept her body still,

but her mind in a frenzy of thoughts

and regrets.

Her eyes were wet and red

and her head pounded with a rhythm

of having slept fitfully.

Nightmarish beings wrapped their cold,

bony fingers around her heart

and squeezed.

Crushed it, stabbed it with the thorny past

that’s come back to haunt her.

She rubs her hands together,

and remembers the way you held them

You didn’t know

And she didn’t tell you,

but when you held them,

You were keeping the nightmares away.

You were holding all of her together,

and you kept the darkness at bay,

By the grace of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,

you were the brightest star in her darkest sky.

Nesha Usmani

Hand Gripping Sand

the pleasures of dunya

are sparkling white sand.

Soft and glittering

warm beneath your tired feet.

But watch as you gather handfuls,

squeezing your fingers against your palms,

gripping and grasping,

watch it spill from the very spaces

you thought would hold it in,

watch it catch the breeze and fly from you,

like it couldn’t get away fast enough.

Watch each soft, glittering, warm speck disappear

into the billions that look just like it.

And so you learn to be content with walking, sitting, playing, laying on it,

but never taking it with you,

Because you realize that when you want to go Home,

you’ll need to brush it off of you, anyway.

Nesha Usmani

Valley

post Fajr hours during Ramadan:
The daylight follows quickly
On the heels of sleep.
No water to lull anxious nerves
And this deprivation turns you
Towards Allah
While a part of you is ashamed
That deprivation is a more powerful
Motivation than gratitude.
You think of people who spend hours
Thanking Allah, with tears flowing.
Or begging Allah, with fear and dread in their hearts.
And you fear a polarization between the thankful and the deprived.
And you wonder if you’re the former or the latter.
If Alhamdulillah is, in your case, reserved only for gain
And Astaughfirullah shows its face only for loss
And if the valley between these mountainous supplications is a dry barren land
No blessing in between?
No well of blessed water between this Safa and Marwa?
You wonder if shukr lies hidden in the middle of constancy.
If the answer to your Dua might come easier if your repentence and remembrance were given constantly,
And not forgotten in the time where nothing spectacular nor disastrous happens,
But also given in the peace between,
Where needs are met effortlessly
And difficulties are mere pebbles on the path.
The light brightens in the room as fear and sadness still tick softly within your heart
And you think of all the Sahabah (ra) and the Rasuls (AS) and beloved Muhammad (SAW)
And their heartbreaks, desires, and goals.
And their sabr shines out.
Between the mountain of blessings and the mountain of calamity is a valley of sabr (patience).
And in the middle, perhaps, is an oasis of shukr (gratitude).
You whisper: ‘Alhamdulillah’
As fear, sadness, and hope tick softly on
As the water drips from your tired eyes.

Nesha Usmani
July 14 2013

Gulls at Dawn

Patience is a difficult test.
After Suhoor and Fajr in a distant land
I cannot sleep.
The seagulls call and dive
And I’d rather hear the waves crashing against the rocks and the tide caressing the shore.
I think of you and pray.
And my heart is overwhelmed
And the tears feel futile,
But I know each loss and gain
Is a sign for those who reflect,
And thankfully the ropes that bind my heart to my chest were never made by my love of mankind
But The Creator.
And my hope is not with the fickle hearts of mankind
But with the One who can change them.
The gulls swoop and dive at every glimpse of a morsel
But I know that it is Allah that fills their stomachs,
And not their fiery competition.
And so I know my heart is His
Not his, to mend and break.

Nesha Usmani
July 13 2013

Scarlet Coat

a worn red coat sits in the corner

of a small, hole-in-the-wall little mom&pop,

which sells wares, chairs, rings, and teddy bears,

and the occasional worn red coat.

A kind of person would smirk and say,

the ‘red’ is more of a ‘scarlet’, isn’t it?

And the vivid sanguine of it would clash and

cover. Blind and smother.

Appear gaudy, flamboyant, something-or-other.

So it sits, the aging fabric, upon an aging chair.

Boxes sit upon it,

and its edges trail the ground here and there.

The buttons have lost their luster,

their black shine long smothered

by dust, and fingerprints, And time, which

passes almost leisurely

almost mockingly, painfully slow.

Until the door opens, and the small copper bell

chimes,

and in walks a kind of person

whose interest lies beyond what the eyes

can see,

And he spots a sleeve, a scarlet sleeve,

that trails the ground, covered in dust.

He walks past the lines of glamour and gold,

the inviting names and packaging,

the promises of quality and satisfaction.

He pushes away the boxes and picks

up the coat,

and through the layers of dirt and time

He sees stories and love and a life.

feels the guarantee of warmth in its fabric,

and despite its well worn demeanor,

he knows it will wear well.

he carries it to the front of this little mom&pop,

puts down some money, maybe a bit more,

smiles, nods, and walks out the door.

The dirt is brushed off, the stains washed clean,

and buttons, though rough with age, emit a glowing shine.

On a cloudy, cold day, in a park by the lake,

the coat envelops a young woman, protecting her from the chill,

and next to her stands her husband,

who admires his wife; whose smile brightened

and her eyes twinkled in delight

when she looked upon the coat

she received that night.

And anyone who saw her that gloomy, rainy day,

could only smile at the splash of colour,

A vividness that cut through the gloom,

whether scarlet and gaudy, or red and bright.

and despite the wear and the dust,

and people unkind, and being hidden from sight,

the coat warms the shoulders of trust

and lives in the light.

Nesha Usmani

July 8, 2013