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Diasporic Musings

April 5, 2018

On Being Lost

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — fatemaelbakoury @ 3:18 am

Ghazal-Sonnet on Being Lost


They didn’t like me when I spoke in class;

Our relationships were always fraught.


Their gazes told me silence was best

To them, beautiful I was not.


I searched for beauty in the wrong places

I forgot that truth is not store bought


I asked Allah to grant me the wisdom

To believe in more than what I sought.


One day, you took all of it away

Reminding me of the person I forgot:


She was kind but lost. Beauty mattered,

But never more than it really ought.


You woke her up, asking her to forget

Those boys and girls who were also caught:


Obsessed with people they too couldn’t be.

You woke me up so I wouldn’t get caught.


Trapped in a web of material dreams.

When the real dream now risked being shot.


I now dream of being closer to you

Your love, so far: reach it, I could not.


But in class, stares or not, now I speak.

It doesn’t matter if our feelings are fraught.


You gave me strength instead of beauty.

It was never about what I wanted or bought.


I wanted to combine a Western and Eastern form to represent my own diasporic being. I used the meter of the sonnet (ten syllables on each line), but stuck to the rhyme scheme and structure of the ghazal (monorhyming couplets). The union is emblematic of my experience as an immigrant Muslim woman: the daily rhythms are induced with an American experience, but the general structure is still rooted in my Egyptian and Muslim identity. My days are always punctuated by prayer, reflecting on my heritage, my responsibilities unto my ancestors.

In this poem, I wanted to take on a modern twist to the general narrative of ghazals. I was inspired by Yusef Komunyakaa’s poem on Ferguson—a deeply modern issue, but for which the incredible consistency of the ghazal renders the form perfect for articulating the tumult of what happened and continues to happen in Ferguson—as well as across this country. I also relied on the ghazals provided in The Green Sea of Heaven, especially Ghazal 21 (“O invisible one I entrust you to God/ You burned my soul and with my heart I love you.”)

I wanted to document what I feel is a deeply diasporic tendency: a deep desire to conform with my American peers. I felt deeply inadequate my whole life: I didn’t raise my hand at all in high school because I felt that my perspective mattered so little. A lot of this sense of inadequacy was also tied to the feeling I had that I was not beautiful. I thought that if I was beautiful, more people would respect me. I remember how my wardrobe began to change; how I invested in makeup products and a hair straightener—all in an attempt to be seen by people who were also no more than God’s creations, and who surely had their own insecurities.

When I began committing myself to prayer, to seeing Allah’s wisdom in what He presented me with, instead of what He didn’t give me, I realized that my journey was about the strength I needed in order to speak up and not any physical features that would make my words more amenable to my peers. Today I ask for that strength.

While different from the ghazals we’ve read in class, I saw my journey as a modern example of the yearning for Allah. I also wanted to be closer to God, but I wanted to nuance my journey by adding that layer of being an immigrant and how trying to fit in created an extraneous distance that I first needed to overcome before I could begin the spiritual journey toward Allah.

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