When it’s all too stupid out here, I hide in books.
Anything can be a microphone.
I cope with words. Some cope with drugs. Some with money. Some with sex, and some with violence. I cope with words.
When all of it happened, I told myself that day that if I were to sit and write it down, if I kept writing everything, I hoped that maybe I’d be able to survive. But I was wrong. I went mad on the page. And I wrote it down. All of it. Every single word.
When it was over, I went back and found what I wrote. I read it and said, “Yousef, burn this thing.”
But I didn’t burn it. I packed it up and put it in a box in the basement. I haven’t opened it since. And I didn’t delete what I wrote at the time.
Here it is. Well, some of it, anyway.
Sometimes, life can be so subtle that the whole thing passes you by without you even noticing it. When you finally do notice, it seems to have been so clear all along that you can’t believe you didn’t see it before.
But here’s the problem.
When you try to explain this to somebody else, they don’t know what you’re talking about. No matter what, no matter how many words you use, nothing you say can make them understand.
Eventually, you start to give up on the words. Words just cannot help you anymore. So you stand up straight and puff out your chest and you say it. You just plain say it. You walk right up and punch it in the face.
That’s what a poem is.
I don’t know how else to explain it. This isn’t about a trip to Costa Rica.
I remember the first time I saw my father cry. I was at the mosque on Greenfield and Tireman, before they moved. We went there every year for Ashura. That year, there was a sheikh from overseas, and everywhere was packed.
My mother sat with all the women on the other side, and I was with my dad. We had to stand with many other men against the corner in the foyer. Dad sat on the floor, and I was watching him.
And everyone was crying. Everyone. The men who stood around me, and the men who sat along the wall, and men in suits, and men who pinched their eyes. And women wailed.
WA HUSAYNA! We cry, we cry, WA HUSAYNA!
My father sat across from me. He shook and cried. My father cried. Husayn had died a thousand years ago, but still I cried. I cried and cried and watched my father weep.
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