Time; God’s Great Thing.

A memory-maker

A dream spinner,

a way to heal, to transform.

Where, in the long stretches,

do moments turn into memory?

August Popsicles dripping down a summer dress

Warm Septembers,

Rusty, breezy Octobers,

Chilly Novembers giving way to winter,

and those nights I used to write and write.

Countless seasons have passed me by,

I am left clinging to childhood, to a carefree

sense of wild freedom,

of so much time to do so much,

and now, too many distractions,

and too little time.

 

Nesha Usmani

 

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

Moj Sumrak

Maybe the only way to love you,

is to leave and love you alone.

And the only way to thank you,

is to etch a farewell in stone.

If I put my regrets upon my back,

the weight would crush my bones.

But you just stand there watching,

and hating the load I carry

you don’t see how much I hate it too.

I know how tired and fed up you are

but I don’t want to say goodbye

Not after the mountains we’ve climbed

together.

Not after how much we’ve cried.

But if it will make you happiest, in the end,

I’ll take my leave, and I’ll tell myself,

that Loving is Leaving

And Trying is Dying

And Gratitude is best shown

with a farewell,

a finite etching in stone.

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

A Graduate Student in Chicago – First Impressions

Image

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalamu alaikum!

Last week, my parents and I stuffed the car full of my belongings and drove around 6 hours to Chicago. I’m beginning my Masters of Public Health program at a university here and so far it’s been more than a little overwhelming. 

Some of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of years know that I’ve spent 6 months in Indonesia, where I learned the language and taught ESL at an elementary school. I wish I could say that my experience in Indonesia (the fourth most populated country in the world) was more difficult than adapting to life in Chicago (the third most populated city in the US), but so far; I can’t.

The American way of life is so fast paced, competitive, and largely chaotic. It’s easy to forget that most of the world does not operate as Americans do. My time in Indonesia was much less stressful.

Worries like finding a job to help pay for tuition, paying rent, studying, practicums, and getting to class on time are amplified by the late summer heat, the traffic, the light, sound, and air pollution, and of course, urban safety concerns. 

It’s only been a few days, but I’m trying to mentally prepare myself to deal with all of these things. I’m sure I’m exaggerating. Thousands of people have been in my situation and adapted, conquered their environments over time. I’m sure I will, too, inshAllah.

My biggest worry though, is prioritization. My religion is the most important thing to me, and for the past year, I’ve been blessed enough to not have to worry about too much interference. Now, my day starts with a 30-45 minute commute, and the return journey can sometimes be longer than that.

As Muslims, the 5 daily prayers are crucial in maintaining religious identity. There are people who adhere to the 5 prayers, and there are those who don’t. I like to be of those who do, and inshAllah, I’ll continue adhering and improving.

Right now, my main concerns are staying attached to my deen (Islam and its practice), staying ahead in my classes, and finding a job. May Allah grant me ease and success in all these things, Ameen.

And so far, Allah has given me ease in every step (I bet you were hoping I’d find the light). My campus, although a bit of commute, is easy to get to. My classes are all in the same building, in the same room. My roommate, alhamdulillah, is Muslim. My apartment is in one of the safest locations in Chicago, with great shopping and restaurants just walking distance. I have relatives nearby who I can stay with on the weekends, and the career services department at my school has been very helpful and encouraging. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

This blog began as a means to document life changes. Since its inception, I’ve graduated from college, volunteered abroad, had some quarter-life and spiritual crises, was blessed beyond words, had some health scares (which I did not blog about), visited the UK, and have now safely arrived in Chicago, ready for another adventure. May Allah make it easy, beneficial, and accept it in my favor, Ameen. 

I hope to regularly talk about my life here. How does a short little Muslimah navigate this huge city? InshAllah we’ll find out, and inshAllah, I can come back and say I was silly to be so stressed. InshAllah Allah has the back of every believer juggling deen, studies, and urban life, ameen.

Until next time, inshAllah,

Nesha

 

 

Wartime Jewel

rwanda genocide children

i’d like to see the jewels of war and genocide.

the wounded children lying broken, bleeding

liquid red ruby into the earth and the street.

Dying in puddles and ditches and rubble,

their shining diamond eyes searching, searching.

Their little fingernails like pearls,

clutching, gripping, grasping

holding on to something.

And their bones, white like ivory.

Their hair in silken strands of obsidian, gold, and citrine.

So precious and pure

these little wartime jewels.

So costly, so dear,

their loss turns hearts to stone.

Fathers into shadows.

Mothers into skeletons.

Murderers into victors.

Evil into power.

And the blood never dries.

Nesha Usmani.

Eid

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Eid Mubarak!

Another Ramadan has passed us by, and while we are so grateful, Alhamdulillah, we pray that inshAllah Allah will give us another one.

Today, with a house spilling over with food, guests, laughter, and conversation (Alhamdulillah), I reflected on how much has changed in the last few years. How diverse our group of friends has become and how much we’ve changed ourselves, as people, as Muslims.

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that our Ramadans were spent with members of our Pakistani and Indian community. Iftars were every evening, almost, at Uncle and Auntie so and so’s house. On Eid, we’d go house-hopping at every one of our Pakistani/Indian friend’s houses, ending up in food comas with the girls I grew up with.

It wasn’t a bad thing by any means! In fact in many ways, I miss it.

But you grow up. You meet new people. You change. Your families change.

In the past three years or so, our Iftars have evolved. Now we rarely host Iftars at our home. Instead, we have community Iftars at our mosque, supporting the message and goal of our New Muslim Support Network. And through that we’ve adopted a diverse array of new friends into our inner circle. From your Caucasian revert to your African-American revert to your Indonesian immigrant. Your new sister from Ethiopia. Your brother who studied Islam and went against his family in his reversion. Your sheikh from the Phillippines, a revert himself, and his wife and their children. The whole, beautiful family that reverted to Islam. The sister who can’t catch a break because she’s juggling a job and kids and a husband who cares nothing for her. Or the sister without a husband who holds fast to her deen tighter than she holds on to you as she hugs you.

And…I think.

Alhamdulillah…SubhanAllah. Where was I when you needed me?

…I’m no scholar or religious leader.

But one thing I do know is that Islam is not a religion of feasts and celebrations. That’s not what Islam teaches us.

It’s the rope that binds us all together, and in the words of my favorite sheikh, it requires everything from you.

It takes your language. It incapacitates culture. It blinds you to race and social status. It turns your house into a home, makes it welcoming for all who enter. Turns your meal for two into a meal for three. Your meal for three into a meal for four. When it opens your eyes, it turns your idea into work. Your work into hard work. Your hard work into success. All by the mercy of Allah, SWT.

It turns your tears of laughter into tears of humility. Tears of awe of the mercy and power of Allah.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m so ashamed when people come into my parents home and they’re so happy to be there and compliment the house and the decor.

And I smile and think subhanAllah. I had nothing to do with this! This is not my idea. All this came from GOD!

I just reply, “Alhamdulillah,” and to the kids I say, scoldingly, “Say mashAllah!

It’s such an amazing thing. To look outside my window and see soo many people of different backgrounds and stories walking to my front door. I can’t help but think how badly we need them. How badly we need them for Allah’s sake.

SubhanAllah.

I’m begging you. InshAllah, the next Eid, if your family doesn’t do this already, invite members of your Muslim community that are reverts, immigrants, or just new to the community. Let them enrich your life with their experiences and the rewards that Allah will give you in including them in your festivities.

We get stuck in this rut of Arabs and Arabs. Pakistanis and Pakistanis. Indians and Indians. African Americans and African Americans. Whites and whites. Reverts and reverts. Or reverts and their pet cats.

Islam is not this! Ramadan is not this! Eid should NEVER be this!

Tear those walls down, man.

Ok, I’m done ranting 🙂

Assalamu Alaikum.