It’s like you’ve always lived in a tunnel
And I live in a meadow in the mountains
You see a tiny light far at the end
And you think you’re enlightened because
You see the dim narrow way to get there
And I think I’m enlightened because
I have the sunlight everywhere
And an infinite view before me
You say « you can’t get lost in a tunnel »
I say « I’d rather find my way among
Sunny peaks and green valleys
Than be stuck in a tunnel »
How do I make you understand
How beautiful this is?


And now I am (‘praying’)
If salat can so be called
I’m almost terrified to write it
As though proclaiming it to no one
Might be a form of kibr potent enough to stop it
بعيد الشر
I’m not proud of it though
It’s a weak, rushed, haphazard start of a journey
Five years overdue
(Was I ever a Muslim until now?
How many months, years after
إقرأ بسم ربك الذي خلق
did the command come
و أقيموا الصلاة
If I was, then where was this yaqeen
all this time?
And when will ikhlaas follow?

If chemicals are responsible for this virtue
They must also be responsible for vice
And perhaps that’s all this life is, after all
Is learning to be the best chemist one can


Three days of silence –
I don’t know where it comes from but
it always accompanies spring
When I go out to get the morning milk
Only a handful of people drift by, like ghosts in the sun
And I, too, am a ghost
Perhaps the nascent heat seals everyone’s doors
pressing them close to the walls
Perhaps the promiscuous trees seal everyone’s lips
with their hypnotic scents
Perhaps it’s divinely ordained.
All I know is that somehow
Everyone has agreed the bird songs are sacred
and are too fearful to interrupt them


وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ


I’ve searched through my whole pile of words

But didn’t find any that, when they’ve

left my mouth

flown away free in the air

sound waves expanding ever further, ever weaker, into the universe,

ressemble at all this ‘mawaddah’.

It must come from beyond, from the ‘arsh, because

it doesn’t fit inside my body.

It makes me want to scream.


Some people say it’s just chemicals flowing through the brain

Mixing in just the right proportions, just the right places

But who, then, is the bartender?


Don’t tell me Jalaluddin isn’t on to something

Just tell me why it’s a lottery with such high stakes


we have an awkward truce
them and I
think the thing with these questions is that
you just have to learn to live with them

I wrote something clever today
tears sliding down my neck
like a rapist’s fingers
cold. unbidden. controlling. unwanted
and somewhere I read something about
oppressive gratitude
and how it takes the universe to make a cup of tea

I promised God I’d pray if I got better
Well today I am but I’m still not praying
A cliche, throwing « I »s around like Nebuchadnezzar

« There’s nothing new under the sun »

But I have so many old things to discover


one, two, three, four
trying to fall asleep at 8:39 am
with a to-do list the length of my spine
four, five, six, seven
they say during a panic attack you should find
something you can touch, 1
something you can see, 2
something you can smell, 3
something you can hear, 4
but sometimes it feels like life is
one, very long, glacially slow
anxiety attack
always building towards
(four, five, six, seven)
enlightenment? or death
(shhh don’t say that word, someone
might think-)
Palm on my lover’s cheek, scratchy beard
Gaze at his face, every memorized line
Breathe the scent of his skin (is this what addiction feels like?)
Listen to his whispers,breathing,sleep…
until he’s gone
eight, nine, ten, eleven hours
and I remember I have to do this alone
« do what? » you ask
find truth

now Rumi’s silence
rings a bell



Every time I see the mountains
I dream of walking towards them
Til I reach a place of utter calm
Where there are no unruly questions
And stay

Yesterday I did

The peace dripped from my hands
Like the juices of a forbidden peach
Til we had to leave
An hour-long drive back to spurious composure


“I was confused
I thought she was your sister or something”
This from a man who
Heard me speak his language
With my love
“She even has the accent!”
A smile that explodes in my heart and stops at
My mouth
Better to pretend I didn’t understand
Just those phrases
Than feign humility
I’m bloated with hidden pride and
For a few minutes it
Leaves no room for the noisy questions


A young girl with catty eyes and
A sea green Minnie Mouse tank top and
A white and black polka-dot bow in her short hair
Sits across from us on the bus
Out the window an old woman slouches on the sidewalk
Begging alone for coins
I see both as they will be and were
The girl, an old widow, no light left in her catty eyes
As her adult grandchildren fight over where to house her
The beggar, an immaculate, smiling girl
Bent into that circle of friends, laughing about a boy’s haircut
Humanity has become to me nothing but that –
Streams of visions of pasts and futures and hopelessness
I never see people as they are anymore
And the existential questions bubble up
Incessant like the sources of the Kabyle mountains
I try to explain all this to my love
The seeing everyone as they were or will be
And the never-ending questions
He finds the former strange
And the latter irreligious
And love is more attainable than answers, anyway
So I bite my tongue


Sobs leak silently from under my sunglasses
Because the infinite questions leaked from my mouth
How did we get here from
Debating retiring to a city or his native mountain village?
All I know is God was silent, as always
And he was agitated
But now he licks his ice cream cone nonchalantly
He’s already used to my emotions, thank God
A drop of melted vanilla touches the ocean
Far, far below us
The waves don’t tranquilize me today
But hypnotism is second best, I suppose
My love asks if I want him to throw me in for a swim
I nod, imagining how I’d fight the cold waves
Dragging my abaya
And stand dripping, shivering on the black sand
Tear streaks washed with seawater
If you can’t see them, perhaps they don’t exist
Then he pulls me away from the beach because
A crazy man with dirt-caked dreadlocks stands nearby
« Are you sure you don’t want an ice cream? »
I shake my head, knowing he’ll buy me one anyway
« You want one », he’s teasing now
Another shake of the head, hand on my mouth to show I’m hiding a smile
He gets chocolate-vanilla with a tiny, forest-green plastic spoon
Because women here don’t lick in public


« You know what I’d do if you ever abandoned me? »
This as we walk through the shadow cast
By a nighttime bus stop under a downtown streetlight
« I’d
Disappear into the moutains. »
Will dramatic plan B’s, C’s, Z’s pop into my head
Even in paradise?
I have a sudden vision of
Tamanghasset’s monastery
On the border of nowhere
Living off bread and water
Being lost to the world
Or the counterfeit lunacy of Rumi’s scholar
Scrounging bits of fat from the garbage like a cat
Til I find answers to these vexatious questions
I’m sane, I really am
But what?
Aren’t we all on the spectrum of insanity?


I’ve lived with these imperious questions since I was 5
(Yes, love, I said imperious –
I swallowed them by accident, maybe in the womb
Or somewhere before that, I
didn’t choose this pathosis)
They’ve become a part of me
Nestled somewhere between my liver and gallbladder
Some years they’re dormant
A long-term treatment of deceptively incomplete answers
And I talk to God instead of about Him
But when the treatment wears off, they’re parasitic
Feeding off faith and faineance and fatigue and
fear, Or lack thereof
Chronic ache to take a bite of eternity
Chew, swallow, repeat, til completion
But I’m a finite being
Does that mean I have to die of hunger with a
Smile on my face?