how to say thank you.

On a hot, Saturday afternoon on an island off Manhattan called Governor’s, I found myself digesting the echoes of poets swirled in the air like tornadoes of deep thinking. Every year this happens right here, called the Poetry Festival and as I sat at a table with other writers called Poetry Teachers NYCI suddenly noticed a poet who looked quite similarly to one I have admired for awhile now.

His name is Kazim Ali and a previous lover graciously gave me his book, Fasting for Ramadan, several summers ago when she was observing this holiday. I knew very little about this observance of fasting and reflecting, but each night, when I helped her break her fast, she shared her stories and finally gave me his. I carried this book around each day, slowly slipping my eyes into each word, feeling its deep pocket of knowledge. This book is composed of Kazim’s journal entries during fasting, but to me, they were poems. Reminders of how to exist in a body that yearns. In a body that needs even when something is taken away. He wrote about the discomfort in an honest, exploratory way.

Growing up with Jewish parents, I knew a little about fasting. We had to engage in this once a year during the holiday of Yom Kipper and I found it deeply deeply hard. I’ve recently been called a “labrador” (like the dog) for my constant hunger and desire to eat. I like to celebrate my appetite and have always found it difficult to go without.

But I understand the meaning behind fasting. We remove/take away in order to understand why we desire it.

Kazim taught me this.

And on this hot Saturday on Governor’s Island, I saw him. This poet who breathed pain and discovery into pages I kept at my side for a summer. And still open every so often to remind me.

What to say to someone who has had such an impact on you.

So, I told him how much I admired his writing. I thanked him for sharing these words which came from hunger’d body, observant body, spiritual body. I gave him some of my poems as an offering.

When we read, we don’t often get to tell these writers: Thank you. Or You impacted me in ways I am still articulating. 

And we must. Because they need to know. Words are bridges, leading us all to each other. To a deeper understanding. Encouraging us to travel through feet and with mind(fullness).

how to invoke religion while holding hands and sharing the heat of approaching summertime.

“I learned how to find the new moon by looking for the circular absence of stars…I learned God’s true language is only silence and breath.”  –Kazim Ali (Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities)

Last summer, I found religion in the journal of a poet who described his hunger and silence while fasting for ramadan. I walked around taking slow, deliberate bites of whatever was around me. Napped on napping trees. Kissed beneath enough moon shadows to call myself a believer of things. Tried a new cuisine called sloped Brooklyn. Became a smoker briefly because I liked the way my breath would tangle with the invisibleness of air. Had a short love-affair with mayflies. Played ukelele on as many benches as my skin could find.

Weeks wait to be found before summer begins but check out this air! One can call themselves religious just by breathing. Just by emptying the winter from lungs and exhaling bouts of lonely or shiver or hungry. Hours can easily climb mountaintops. Clouds wait to be deciphered into a language of picture maps.

This time is different. You may use the same words for things but meanings no longer need to be still and unwavering. You can memorize a prayer like love and it can be new each time. How amazing! How wonderful to climb hands into another’s and trace the elongation of breath traveling without passport to another country just by feeling your way. 

Bodies are like religious institutions. Stained glass. Memorials. Psalms and palms. Sermons threading together the meanings of things.

We fast (figuratively and metaphorically) to remember why we hunger so much. We gain weight when we allow our bodies permission to hold on to what finally nourishes us.

i’m looking.i’m looking.i’m looking for…….

“Everyone is looking for something. This culture. They want it now; they want everything,” A woman on the 3 train speaks this out loud to me or the people beside her.

The listener is the one who listens and I’m listening.

We want what exists on the other side of what we have and when we feel like we suddenly have nothing, we will settle for anything. 

My father tells me a story of a man he once knew who was a prisoner of war for seventeen months. He paced around in a tiny cell, giving himself permission to feel self-pity for a limited amount of time: 7 seconds per day. This restriction kept him stronger.

“And if he only used four seconds one day,” my dad explained, “he couldn’t use ten the next day. There was no storing or saving.”

I awake in a bed that is not my own, covered in sweat, my back a place of fire and unforgiveness. Panic presses itself into my chest. I am collapsing even though I am laying down.

Currently, I am looking for (permanent) housing. But more than that, I am searching for the crumbs dropped by my future self to guide me toward this present-tense path. There is no GPS for spirituality.

In 1.2 miles, make a left turn on Enlightenment Road…..

I think it might be time to join Kazim and the one who talks about intentional peace. The writers. Perhaps I have already begun this fast. Perhaps I ought to pay closer attention to the language of moaned organs. When I fast, I will think about what yearns inside me; I will pay closer attention to the appetite of my mind and pulsating heart. When Iftar arrives, I hope to break fast with intention of renewal. Renewing this self into something that can remain.

Many of us do want everything. We buy. We parade. We live out loud on computer screens for others to catalogue the meals we ate or faces we make.  And if we surround ourselves with these things, maybe it says:   I am ok. There is no suffer in me

Or maybe we should turn everything into one thing. One thing to want. Wonder what that could be. Write it out. Manifest if through.