Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) – Four Poems
An-Nur: Why Are You With Me?
for Ahmad Holderness, after Siraj A Sabuke’s “I am a traveler”
Abu Othman al-Hiri, when he was a child,
asked his servant: Why are you with me?
The servant replied: To assist you with
whatever inclination you might have.
They encountered a donkey, one tired
and with many injuries. The child took
off his silk cloak and wrapped the poor
creature’s wounds in his own clothes.
Abu Othman did not stand and pray
and ask the One to care for the donkey.
To the Prophet, peace be upon him,
belongs the station of intercession.
To the rest of us, the Master’s servants,
belong the stations of action.
When the Master asks: Why are you
with me? what can we say but:
To assist You with any inclination You
might have to minister to any of Your
creatures, to be the Hands of Your
Compassion. Beloved Master, where
do You wish us to spend from the purse
of Your infinite mercy? Whom do you
wish us to bandage up in the silken
shade of the Tree of Tuba?
An-Nur: The Day of Judgment
for j.lewis, a response to his poem “Illumination”
the job description of a human being
never did include an essay question
on perfection, never did include a self-
assessment checklist against which we
could tick ourselves off as “incomplete”
when the Is is looking for someone
through whom to act or speak, who am
i to say: not me, i am not ready yet,
i need another year or three before
i’m good enough to do this work, before
i’m close enough to perfect…who am
i to say that the need cannot be filled
by someone who is variable, sometimes
fragile, sometimes strong, someone who
is fallible, sometimes right but often
wrong? who am i to tell the Is that
someone else is better suited? what if
the work that’s needed is really in
the trenches, so deep in the bowels
of this hurting earth that if my job
were given to someone more pristine,
the cloak of dust and dirt and mud
they’d gather’d hide their gleam?
no, the Compassion doesn’t ask if
i am perfect, or even good enough,
only if i’m ready to begin
An-Nur: Unbinding Referendum
“…its own gray area, wrapped in its cold politics, where its leadership runs a deliberate anti-immigration policy against others, especially foreigners in flight from war and other devastations…”
– Prof. Rem Raj, from “Going H.U.N.G.A.R.Y: Of Bread, Notes and Paths Taken”
The job description of a human being is
surely more than hoarding and hibernation,
is surely more than greed and isolation.
Nation after nation taking referendums,
expressing opinions through first
and second votes. The essence of each
query seems to be more basic than what
do I want my country to be. The essence
is simply who do I consider to be my
family, to whom do I owe filial piety,
to whom do I owe respect for elders,
which young ones are my responsibility?
Perhaps the question could be phrased
this way: Do I believe I am intrinsically
more valuable than the stranger on
the street, the neighbor on the sidewalk,
the fleeing refugee? Do I believe my
own rights to liberty and dignity, even
perhaps a sense of safety, somehow
take precedence over providing a chance
for others, also, to live free from
oppression, humiliation, fear of violence?
The job description of a human being is
to see beyond the boundaries of faith
and race, gender, nation, skin, extend
the definition of neighbor and family,
to draw the circle wider, then step in.
An-Nur: Night-Blooming Jasmine
for Marie Craven, Guy Traiber, Sheikha A, and Umar Abubakar Sidi
People who are
haunted don’t live around
– Sheikha A., “Convalescence”
I dream, unsure both in the dream and after
whether I am awake or deep in sleep. I climb
five steps up to an alcove before an open
window, unroll my prayer mat before I can
tell which thread I’m holding in my hand is
red and which is blue. There is time yet
before the call rings out in the air above
me. There is time yet before the birds wake
and begin to sing. Morning is not yet quite
visible, is not yet audible, daylight’s market
is still setting up, its stalls are not yet
open. Time exhales the remains of evening
slowly, lets all of the air held in reserve
escape: it is making space, expelling all
that has been stagnant for a lifetime, deeply
empty. My body falls away as I breathe in
honeysuckle and night-blooming jasmine.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
I think perhaps “beauty” is the term for what we experience in those moments we escape our ego-community, the ones when all the energy tied up in whether or not we are doing what we should be, whether or not we are going to be able to get what we need or accomplish what we feel like we must, whether or not others are treating us equitably…those moments when all the mental and emotional constructs that separate us from the world around us become unexpectedly permeable and we have a moment when we are able to focus on what is “out there” unobstructed by our own fears and aspirations.
Those glimpses, for me at least, come with (as?) a delicious blend of inadequacy and hopefulness. They feel completely unearned and undeserved, and as such, are humbling… and yet each experience kindles a longing for more of that kind of gift. The poem “An-Nur: Night-Blooming Jasmine” was trying to get at the same thing…and I think probably does so a little better than what I’m managing to say here.
Laura M. Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Editor at Right Hand Pointing, and also serves as Poetry Editor for Praxis Magazine Online, where she curates the digital chapbook / Around This Fire response-chapbook series. She is the author of four chapbooks and four poetry collections, most recently Anchorhold (2016, edited by Wale Owoade, cover art by Robert Rhodes, foreword by j.lewis, & introduction by JK Anowe). Anchorhold is available from AMAB Books in Nigeria, and from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers in the US.