Issue 28, Do not choose the lesser life
A letter to Rumi, remembering bell hooks and discarding masculinity with Salt
It’s hard to believe that 2021 is nearly over. In London we are revisiting 2020 with cancelled plans and a looming lockdown. I had to cancel my visit to India despite not being able to visit home for nearly two years. I spent many nights without sleep waiting to hear more as my twin sister went into labour and then as my new born nephew, Rumi, fought through several days of complications. The little one is now thankfully on his way to recovery. As he was going through a harrowing medical procedure, I was spiralling with worry (not unlike the whirling dervishes); the only thing I knew how to do then is pick up my tablet and start sketching. A little prayer for Rumi.
This past week as my nephew recovered, one of my most beloved writers, bell hooks, sadly passed away. She wrote prolifically about white supremacy and patriarchy from the lens of radical Black feminism. As I combed through her work in remembrance I recalled how reading her as a teenager - I couldn’t help noticing the men/boys around me being so afraid of love, of expressing vulnerability or of feeling their own emotions.
My hope with the name Rumi – after the famous Persian poet – is that he will grow up to embrace poetry, love, dance, and emotion just like the dervishes of Rumi’s time did in Sama – the Sufi ceremony of active meditation performed to pay attention, to listen and to dance with spiritual abandon. My hope is that he goes into his life refusing it to be narrowed by the norms of gender and masculinity.
This time I want to share 12 small poems by one of my favourite poets Nayyirah Waheed – one for each day of the holiday. I discovered her work a few years ago and was moved by just how much she’s able to say about making space, paying attention and cultivating our softness in just a few lines.
From Nayyirah Waheed’s Salt.
yes. yes i do. have the right to be this lush and neverending.
do not choose the lesser life.
do you hear me.
do you hear me.
choose the life that is. yours.
the life that is seducing your lungs.
that is dripping down your chin.
you must write. yourself.
you can write anything else.
there have been so many times
i have seen a man wanting to weep
beat his heart until it was unconscious.
there is no other.
because there is no default.
a variation of life.
—the human being | the human gender | the human sex
you do not have to be a fire
every mountain blocking you.
you could be a water
soft river your way to freedom
your heart is the softest place on earth. take care
stay soft. it looks beautiful on you.
let me put your flowers on.
soft in fire
the idea of a second heart.
i want more ‘men’
with flowers falling from their skin.
more water in their eyes.
more tremble in their bodies.
more women in their hearts
on their hands.
more softness in their height.
more honestly in their voice.
more humility in their feet.
Staying soft is hard work, but one that is an imperative in this time - we must not harden. How are you allowing yourself to stay soft this holiday season?
Three ideas for gifting
Recently I was gifted the Ember mug - which temperature controls my tea/coffee from an app to the exact degree I want. As someone who runs on tea, this gift has felt like a luxurious gesture of love - I’m sure I could live without it just fine but having it makes me enjoy my day that much more.
I recently discovered the art of Richa Kashelkar and have been so inspired to commit to sketching again because of her art. I absolutely love the fluidity, colour and poetry in all her artworks and can’t wait to get them some of her prints/canvases for my house.
I met the Co-founder and CEO of POJ Studio, Tina Koyama as a colleague when I was in San Francisco. She then went on to found POJ Studio which curates high-quality craft products from artisans all across Japan. These incense leaves have been on my stocking stuffing list for a while - absolutely breathtaking idea and aesthetic.
Ending the year in awe
These newsletters have become an exercise for me to sift through my days every few weeks and fish out the morsels of awe I was able to find, no matter how big or small. As we’re entering our third year of the pandemic this has almost felt like waging a war, against the endless cycle of cancelled plans and the constant worry of our safety and health and in the very least the life we’re not living. I am reminded each time I write one of these that there is still living happening despite it all.
I hope you have been able to find some awe to end the year through this issue and I wish you all a restful and healing holiday season and new year. See you on the other side of 2022!
Did you like this issue? I’d be grateful if you could give the gift of poetry to someone in your life by sharing Found Poems with them!