Friday, December 14 – “I am going to smuggle some more of your laughter into this poem”
Today has a feeling of wrapping things up for this academic term — even though academic work remains in many parts of the university for next week. When undergrads finish exams, most of our younger citizens of Detroit Mercy pack and head out to Christmas break. More and more faculty finish all of their grading labors and begin to taste the fresh air of break time. And, for someone who has loved the great seven O Antiphons (December 17-24) this is opens thrilling place in the year’s seasons.
It’s a good moment to post Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz’s “O Highly Praised One” (i.e., “English translation of “Mohammad”). Playful jokes at the heart of the sacred. Posting it on Friday, the Day of Prayer in Islam, respects the poem’s form, a contemplative prayer of praise. Placing it at the head of the seven “O Antiphons” celebrates this university’s Catholic roots as well as our place in Detroit where the wide world’s faith traditions live together.
“O Antiphons” begin tomorrow and end on Christmas eve. No promises about when the next post will appear, but last year the next poem was posted on New Years eve day. Have a blest break, filled with surprises and new depths of affection.
Today’s Post: O Highly Praised One!
My poems are silent about you, o highly praised one!
Where I live
You are exiled to impossible conversations walled up inside sound bites
And among not so funny cartoon figures that smell of ominous things
Divested of your famous smile, soft clean hands, and rose-scented perfume
You order your dim-witted followers
To hide bombs inside the folds of an oversized turban that history does not remember you to have worn … ever
History says you had curly black hair resting playfully on your shoulders
Gentle but penetrating eyes
An upright figure
A firm – but not haughty – voice
And a somewhat reserved – even bashful- personality
I was not surprised to read about your habit of sitting with your legs folded under and saying “I am not a proud king.”
No one had bothered to tell me that you recommended kind words to be the best type of alms for Muslims to give.
I never thought collections of your sayings would have funny anecdotes like when you said to this man who prayed too loud “Do not hurt your throat my son, the all mighty is not deaf.”
Then you added wisdom to laughter
“He lives in you … and knows how you live your life.”
Few biographers speak of your humor
They figure blood, blind anger, and other heart wrenching things go better with the war on terror
But I am going to smuggle some more of your laughter into this poem anyway:
One day, a dying woman asked you “Would a sick old retch like me be allowed into paradise?” “No” you answered with a straight face “you will be young and healthy by the time you get there.”
We need your humor, O highly praised One!
We need it now more than ever
Teach me how to smile
As I tear the veil of despair to reach your figure obscured
By that of Ben Laden and other “Abu”s and “Ibn”s
Obscured by the yellow mushroom clouds manufactured with anxiety and ignorance,
layer upon layer of not knowing and not wanting to know
Teach me to take in and cherish every glimmer of hope
The rays of tranquility that emanate from the perfect diction of peace be upon you!
Teach me to be that peace
Let me dream about flaunting my friendship with you
The way grandma publicized the perfection of your arched eyebrows which she saw in a dream so long ago she could not remember when
In her dream, you stood upon a hill far and near – and luminous with daylight
She stepped close
And closer to the foot of the hill and fragrance in the air overwhelmed her senses
From that point on she remembered little
Except the perfection of your bright face and arched eyebrows
Which echoed in the soft tremor in her voice
As she whispered under her breath:
Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz
A poet and scholar, she holds The University of Maryland’s Roshan Chair Persian Studies