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NOW AND THEN
I can stop writing to you now
Writing is all I am
Until the end you will always be Then to me
Am I ever even a faint smile to you?
You’ve been gone a long time now
I haven’t gone anywhere
I am caught remembering
A Time now
I will find for myself the answer
The answer I already know
Or stop asking
I’m not important
You were just a promise I made to myself
I don’t want anything anymore anyway
(You must want something )
(What do you want?)
I’m talking to myself again
(What is it about this being crucified thing?)
(Shedding your body?)
I felt love approaching
I was so sure
So was I crazy or were you my destiny?
I was crazy
You were my crazy
That is rock bottom comedy
Me unfolding like a paper party horn
Rolling to the end
Sounding a tissue trumpet
(What are you afraid of?)
Things as they actually exist
I believed there was a me and you
It’s only me
I am it alone
(Oh please stop it)
(Can I just laugh at you now?)
(I am weary of you)
(I won’t be back)
(Yet here I am)
(I wished you would stop writing me)
(Let me go)
(Let me go for your own sake)
(You aren’t my fault)
(You knew what we were doing)
(So I am glad for you)
(Now and then)
THE JOYFUL SUTRA SINGS
Sixteen Sacraments of Desire
Be glad you are not a rock
You are the envy of the dust
Be glad you are here
Be here Joy fully glad
Be glad you ask, “Where does It All go?”
You hide It from yourself
Be glad you bless what you have lost
Panning for gold
Be glad you have so little time
Think of those who have less
Be glad you are not the next generation
They get what is coming
Be glad It is a puppet show
Be glad you have not
Time to slow down
Be glad when Love has you
It Is all you will ever know for sure
Be glad you will miss me
Until you are forgotten
Be glad you are not those pretty people
They are God’s problem
Be glad you can not Save yourselves
You should be ashamed of yourselves
Be glad you can not ignore your pain
Love would not lie
Be glad you can hold on
Let it burn
Be glad you are taking responsibility
Be glad you have nothing to lose
You can’t imagine The End
If I live, if I live for thirty more years
Will I be ninety-nine?
My wife is growing faint
She has blurred to me
Unsteady she she
Holds seance with our cats
On the couch she sleeps
I can’t well hear her,
I glance toward her now
I barely hold her
It’s hard for her me to kiss
My teeth are clenching
I am obsessed with something
I can no longer understand
Damn my blood of sea captains
I couldn’t read the stars
I was casting off the ones I love
I was not worth what I thought
I am a standing wave breaking
A birth and death unchanging
Hidden in a shimmer
That is we
Crossing paths of waves bye-bye
All these intersections
Appeared so real
We are the passing
Passing in each moment
Consumers of ourselves
Zuhra is a twelve-year-old black Palestinian girl. She lives in a compound of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Zuhra has a goat named Kibash.
This morning Kibash carries a heavy pouch for Zuhra, given to her by two cousins who said, “Be very careful. Give it to a man who will take it from you in the field. It is a gift for him.”
The life of Zuhra is a hard one as a girl, a difficult one as a Palestinian, and often a harsh one as a black, even though Zuhra’s people have lived on the land since the days of the slave trade.
Zuhra is determined to hold her faith, saying, “I am a child of Allah Blessed Be His Name, and I am no less, even if I am a black Palestinian girl.”
Zurha’s goat Kibash bleats, “It is better to live one day as a black Palestinian girl than live a thousand years as a goat!”
Zuhra scolds, “Kibash! Goats are blessed to be sacrificed for Allah Blessed Be His Name.”
Kibash wags his tongue, saying, “And so you can see why we goats are Agnostic!”
Zuhra blushes at the blasphemy of Kibash.
Kibash concludes, “At least your misery is the Will of Allah Blessed Be His Name.”
Zuhra nods, “I hear your wisdom, Kibash. Thank you for your comfort, my dear friend.”
Zuhra and Kibash approach the Israeli military check-point outside her compound.
Zuhra recognizes the young Israeli soldier, Raphael.
Kibash wags his tongue and whispers, “Raphael burns your cheeks as does the sun.”
Zuhra catches Kibash’s tongue and pinches it.
Zuhra says to Kibash, “Please. Don’t embarrass me. Raphael must already wonder what is wrong with me. I am 12-years-old and unmarried.”
Raphael smiles and he raises his rifle to Zuhra.
Raphael calls out, “Good morning, Zuhra”, then he grins and wags his tongue at Kibash, saying, “And to you as well, Kibash.”
Zuhra lowers her eyes and Kibash begins to nibble at the tempting strap of the pouch he carries.
Raphael asks, “Going to the field again today, Zuhra?”
Zuhra replies shyly, “Yes.”
Kibash tugs at the strap of the pouch he carries and Zuhra pulls it from his mouth, scolding, “Kibash, behave!”
Raphael narrows his alert eyes and asks, “That pouch: is it new, Zuhra?”
Zuhra looks up at Raphael and smiles, “It contains a gift for a friend of our family.”
Raphael asks, “What is it?”
Zuhra replies, “I was told not to look inside. It is a surprise.”
Raphael then sees that Kibash has yanked out some wires from inside the pouch.
The object within the pouch begins to emit a soft high pitched whine.
Raphael suddenly bends down to Zuhra. He grabs her up into his arms and dives behind the barricade.
The pouch is hanging in Kibash’s mouth by the exposed wires held in his teeth.
Raphael covers Zuhra’s head with his own body and braces himself.
The explosion, the foul explosion of intestinal gas from Kibash’s rear end is apocalyptic.
There is sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Israeli military check-point.
Zuhra cries. “Kibash is the Father of All Stinky Smells!”
It takes many minutes for the broken wind to heal itself around Kibash.
The ham radio that had been concealed in the pouch now emits a squealing noise.
Kibash continues to chew on the ham radio wires saying, “This thing is unclean. No wonder it tastes so good.”
Raphael confiscates the damaged ham radio and urges Kibash and Zuhra on their way.
Zuhra mutters to Kibash, “Why must you defile my intentions?”
Kibash answers, “Ask Allah Blessed Be His Name.”
Zuhra scolds in disgust, “You are the Imam of the Damned.”
Kibash warns, “Take care or I will issue another Fartwah.”
In the field at last, Kibash goes to work eating the weeds and thistles, clearing the field for cultivation.
Zuhra daydreams about Raphael, thinking, “Raphael does not care than I am black and Palestinian.”
Around Zuhra, several young boys cultivate the cleared portions of the field.
One of the young boys, Hosni, calls out to Zuhra, “Get to work, slave.”
Another boy, Nadim, laughs, “Slave.”
A third boy, Tariq, throws a stone at Zuhra.
The stone hits Kibash instead. He raises his horned head.
Tariq laughs, “I have stoned the Devil!”
Nadim laughs, “The three of us must stone the Devil seven times!”
Zuhra cries out in alarm, “Kibash is not the Devil!”
Hosni shouts, “He is a known Devil!”
Zuhra pleads, “At worst he is only an admirer of the Devil!”
The three boys raise their arms and conduct a concert of stones.
Suddenly, Kibash leaps, lowers his head and charges at the three boys, with alarming alacrity.
Kibash repels those oncoming stones with his lowered horns. Then he is upon the panicking boys. They grovel beneath him as he wags his drooling tongue over them.
Kibash quotes, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith.”
The boys look up at Kibash, in terror. They wail, “Forgive us! Let us return to our cultivation. Please, Devil.”
As the three boys run away, Kibash returns to Zuhra and winks, again quoting, “No one is free of sin: we must forbid evil nonetheless.”
The moon is annoying Kibash.
The muttering and pawing of Kibash interrupts the prayers of Zuhra. She goes to the goat pen and asks, “Kibash, what is wrong with you? You interrupt my prayers.”
Kibash blows his nose, saying, “The moon god is capricious and dances month to month in my sky!”
Zuhra admonishes Kibash, saying, “The moon is a sign of Allah Blessed Be His Name. The moon is not a god.”
Kibash replies indignantly, “The moon is the god of goats.”
Zuhra says, “Muhammad God’s Messenger split the moon in a miracle! The two parts of the moon stood on two mountains!”
Kibash replies victoriously, “The same way is a goat split in sacrifice! The same way is a goat’s head split into two horns.”
Zuhra asks, “Then why does your god, the moon, dancing in the sky annoy you?”
Kibash asks incredulously, “Why? Because that is how I pray!”
The Angel Gabriel comes to Zuhra and Kibash in the field one day. He appears as an old man with a very white face, his long, loose fitting clothes also white, but his hair black as the night sky.
Kibash speaks first, asking, “Sheik, what can we do for you?”
The Angel Gabriel as an old man turns to Zuhra and asks of her, “Please tell me about Islam.”
Zuhra says without hesitation, “Islam is to bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah The Praised and Exalted and that Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him is the Messenger of Allah. Islam is to establish the Islamic prayer. Islam is to give alms to the needy. Islam is to fast Ramadan. Islam is to perform pilgrimage to Mecca if you are able to bear the journey.”
The Angel Gabriel says, “You have said the truth.”
The Angel Gabriel as an old man turns to Kibash and asks, “What are the signs of the Hour of The Judgement?”
Kibash says, “The signs of the Hour of Judgement have already come: most people bear the mark of the internet, most things spoken are a lie, men think that they are women and women think that they are men, people divide themselves into a thousand ways worse than Babel, what is done in Sodom does not stay in Sodom, governments perform in a circus, all desires are called good, and Allah Blessed Be His Name is mocked and the people worship Darwin.”
Gabriel as an old man falls to his knees, bows his head and weeps, saying, “It is worse than Allah Blessed Be His Name has yet revealed even to me.”
The old man then shows himself as Gabriel. His six hundred wings cover the sky from horizon to horizon. His feathers now fall as fire.
The air raid sirens sound like trumpets.
Zuhra and Kibash meet themselves, an apparent “Zuhra” and an apparent “Kibash”, in the field one day.
Zuhra is terrified. Kibash paws the dirt threateningly.
Kibash says, “Do not be afraid, Zuhra! Those two are our personal Jinn, the Qareen we were born with. They can only whisper in our ears and urge us to commit sin.”
Zuhra calls out to their Qareen, asking, “Why do you appear to us? Why are you not shadows?”
The Qareen “Zuhra” bows to Zuhra, saying, “You have captured me with your spirituality. You are pious, you never sin, you never miss a prayer. I am now your servant.”
The Qareen “Kibash” bows to Kibash, saying, “You are capricious, your appetite is unbounded, you bear horns to honor He Who Was First To Enter Hell. I will be your servant if you deny Allah.”
Zuhra pleads, “Do not listen, Kibash!”
Kibash says, “I will accept your service if you can answer three questions.”
The Qareen “Kibash” grins, “You will find that I know everything and that I will be a useful servant.”
Kibash asks, “Who is Allah?”
The Qareen “Kibash” shakes his head, “He is the one true God.”
Kibash asks, “Who is Muhammad?”
The Qareen “Kibash” smirks, “He is the last prophet of Allah.”
Kibash says, “Impressive. Now, what is The Religion in the sight of Allah?”
The Qareen “Kibash” licks his lips and says, “Oh, please. This is too easy. The Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam.”
Suddenly the Qareen “Kibash” cries out and falls to his knees.
Kibash smiles and says, “Now you are a Muslim. Never have another negative desire.”
One night Kibash is dreaming. In his dream he argues with a locust.
The locust has arisen from the ground at Kibash’s feet.
Kibash lowers his horns to smash the locust, saying, “You are greed itself, devouring every green thing. You will not starve me!”
And the locust says, “For each of us you smash, ninety-nine will arise. Each of us holds ninety-nine eggs inside. We will rise again like souls from the grave at the Hour of Judgement! Remember: we are the ones who destroyed Pharaoh. What can a foolish goat defend? We are an Army Of Martyrs.”
Kibash leans down to the locust, wags his tongue, and then licks up the locust, swallowing him whole.
When Kibash awakes he asks Zuhra for the meaning of his dream.
Zuhra contemplates and then answers, “A dream about eating means you hunger for something. Eating alone means you are lonely. Eating locusts in a dream means that you will receive money!”
Kibash stamps his foot, saying, “I hunger only for food, and when I am with myself I am not lonely, and surely if I receive money it can only mean that I have been sold for meat!”
Zuhra sits under the large old mulberry tree in the courtyard outside her home. She thinks of her father and mother.
Zuhra sighs, “Peace Be Upon You, Father, Mother.”
Kibash joins Zuhra He kneels to recline beside her, asking, “Are you remembering your family?”
Zuhra replies, weeping, “Yes. Oh, Kibash, the years do not exist. My Father and Mother live in my mind today.”
Kibash comforts Zuhra, saying, “That is a blessing.”
Zuhra, bursting, says,“How is it a blessing that they were killed? For this I have no wisdom.”
Kibash advises, “Death comes to all. We all belong to Allah Blessed Be His Name. We all own only our Faith.”
The father of Zuhra was Jawara, a Muslim African.
He had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, leaving behind his wife and children.
The conflicts between Palestine and Israel trapped Jawara and he never saw his family again.
Zuhra’s father was remarried to a Palestinian woman named Enaya who became Zuhra’s good mother. Enaya would read the Quran to the infant Zuhra.
Jawara would slaughter a lamb beneath the large mulberry tree. With the other men of the village he fed the poor of the village with lamb, porridge, and vegetables .
Jawara and Enaya had a female goat named Karam. Karam was the good mother of Kibash.
Little Zuhra loved little Kibash and they were always together.
One day Jawara and Enaya were walking hand-in-hand when they were caught in a cross-fire between Israeli military and rebel Palestinians.
Jawara and Enaya died hand-in-hand.
Little Zuhra and little Kibash became like sister and brother.
Corporal Raphael of the Israeli Military has morning patrol with Corporal Sarah at the Al Aqsa Mosque checkpoint.
This is the checkpoint through which Zuhra and Kibash pass daily to work in the fields.
Raphael has no bias against Zuhra as a black Palestinian. He has come to think of Zuhra as more than a sister but that she is “too young”.
Raphael realizes that in her own world Zuhra could be married already. Such thoughts trouble him.
Raphael shakes his head, thinking, “Why do I make such troubles for myself? Always.”
Corporal Sarah watches Corporal Raphael and asks him, “A shekel for your thoughts?”
Raphael snorts wryly, saying, “I would owe you half a shekel.”
Sarah points with her chin, saying, “Speaking of half shekels, here come that girl and her goat.”
Raphael is not aware of his smile but Sarah is.
Raphael raises his hand in greeting, calling, “Zuhra. You too, Kibash.”
Zuhra bears the smile of Raphael.
Sarah says to Zuhra, “We need to see your identification .”
Raphael whispers to Sarah, “This is not necessary. I know these two. For some time now.”
Sarah says, “I know. You grow complacent, Raphael,” and she looks down upon Zuhra.
Kibash feels the jealousy between Sarah and Zuhra. He wags his tongue to say, “Raphael burns both of your cheeks like the sun.”
Sarah demands of Zuhra, again, “Your identification,”
Sarah suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Zuhra as a beautiful young woman being consumed in a pillar of fire.
Zuhra suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Sarah with a great wound on her temple.
Raphael suddenly is given, by Allah Blessed Be His Name, a vision of Kibash bestowing upon him his horns. Then Raphael is sacrificed and burned.
In an instant all three visions have dispelled.
Sarah, pale and humble, whispers, “Pass with God.”
Zuhra bows and says, “May you always be with Allah Blessed Be His Name.”
Kibash wags his tongue at Raphael, saying, “Welcome to my world.”
While patrolling the field last night, Raphael and Sarah are killed by Palestinian rebels.
Raphael’s mutilations and Sarah’s wounds make them appear as if sacrificed.
Zuhra and Kibash have find them in the early morning. Zuhra wails face down in the dust.
After a long time, Kibash notices a yellow heifer on the nearby hill.
The yellow heifer descends to them slowly.
Kibash sees that the yellow heifer is a flawless animal and it’s skin seems to radiate the sun.
Zuhra is still face down in the dust that is wetted with tears.
Kibash wags his tongue, asking, “Yellow Heifer, you are of flawless beauty. How do you roam this field without a master? Why are you here in this field of Death?”
The yellow heifer answers, “Allah Blessed Be His Name is my only master. I have been sent because of the purity of Zuhra’s faith.”
Zuhra at last arises beside the slain Raphael. She is stupefied and bewildered by the yellow radiance of the heifer.
The yellow heifer approaches the corpse of Raphael. She kneels and touches him with her nose.
The yellow heifer turns to the lifeless form of Sarah. She kneels and touches her with her nose.
Raphael and Sarah stir and then they stand up as wobbly as babies.
Zuhra cries out and collapses again, this time in praise to Allah Blessed Be His Name.
Kibash says to the yellow heifer, “That was the greatest sign of them all.”
The yellow heifer prays, saying, “You all were lifeless and Allah Blessed Be His Name gave you all life, and Allah Blessed Be His Name will take away life from you all and will again restore you all to life: then you all shall ultimately return to Allah Blessed Be His Name.”
12 اثنا عشر
Zuhra is now an old woman whose beauty is a sunset.
The great-great-grandson of Kibash is now Zuhra’s young companion. The great-great-grandson resembles Kibash himself and he is called Kabir.
Kabir asks of Zuhra, “Why do the old men in the village say that Kibash Peace Be Upon Him was a Devil?”
Zuhra smiles and remembers, saying, “I love Kibash but he was an admirer of the Devil’s independence.”
Kabir asks, “Is it true that you and Kibash witnessed many miracles?”
Zuhra nods, “Allah Blessings Be Upon Him confided in us.”
Kabir asks, “What would Kibash Peace Be Upon Him have said about me?”
Zuhra recalls, laughing, “Kibash said that Heaven is for goats who have no one to remember them.”
Just then Kibash appears in a turquoise radiance.
Little Kabir is startled and he hides behind Zuhra who laughs with sympathy.
Kibash speaks, wagging his tongue, saying, “Be careful what you desire, Kabir.”
Kabir bleats, “Are you real, Kibash? Where do you come from?”
Kibash laughs, “I have been in your heart. Are you real, Kabirl?”
He nods to Zuhra and winks.
Kabir comes boldly from behind Zuhra, saying, “I am real in the Heart of Allah Blessed Be His Name!”
Zuhra claps with delight, saying, “Kabir ate the Quran when he was a kid.”
Kibash laughs, saying, “So the teachings of the Quran are near to Kabir’s heart.”
Zuhra says, “You must be proud.”
Kibash agrees, saying, “After all, I am the Father Of All Stinky Smells.”
Kabir hops with embarrassment. Then he says boldly, in retaliation, “And I am the descendant of a Devil!”
Smiling with humble gratitude, Kibash, Kabir, and Zuhra pray together in turquoise light.
All the wrong things
At the speed of time
Your time is coming due
Be glad it will be gone
The pain of love
The love of pain
This is ecstasy