Canines and Hijabs

I keep thinking how remarkable it is that a being with no audible voice in my life, with no tangible dexterity of any human language is capable of teaching me so much of Love. I am referring to Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pet spaniel who Virginia Woolf wrote a book about after reading the Browning’s love letters.

I watched many interesting talks today about Muslim women; whether the hijab is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (Personally, I no longer believe in ‘right’ or ‘wrong’- just kind and unkind, happy and unhappy- these things warp and change day to day, but they do not pretend to be as monolithic and grand as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ try to be), about the visibility of Muslim women and what it even means to be Muslim anymore in all the lies and stereotypes we are fed every day for the ends of perpetuating profit, blood money.

Just in case anyone’s interested, here are the talks I listened to-

  • What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  • What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter

  • The Muslims You Cannot See | Sahar Habib Ghazi | TEDxStanford

 

  • The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

I think we should all try to be a bit more like Flush in these times when myth pervades over smiling at strangers in the street. When I watch my dogs on our walks, they never slow down to a pace of shyness when a new puppy lollops out on our horizon- my dogs sniff, they they circle and play; I like to imagine in human terms they would be saying “Hello fellow Soul, how do you do?

IMG_6036.JPG

The only reason monsters exist is because we make them. Which means we can also un-make them, and I guess that must start with ending fear. Understanding that each human, regardless and yet resulting from colour creed gender age etc ect, is a plethora of nerves and arbitrary intellects. No one is a closed book ending, we must stop conducting this society as if we are robots; we must think like dogs. I treasure what Virginia says: “Flush knew what man can never know- love pure; love simple, love entire; love that brings no train of care in its wake; that has no shame; no remorse; that is here, that is gone, as the bee on the flower is here and gone.” 

Today’s poem is by a Farsi poetess, Forough Farrokhzad- an Iranian modernist thinker whose poem ‘Born Again‘ is so beautiful and strong she gave me shivers, my arm hairs stood up on the tube. ‘Born Again‘ is rather long, so I didn’t want to include it here; instead here is ‘Gift‘… xoxoxoxoxoxooxox

Gift

I speak out of the deep of night
out of the deep of darkness
and out of the deep of night I speak.

If you come to my house, friend
bring me a lamp and a window I can look through
at the crowd in the happy alley. 

Forough Farrokhzad

A day, a holy nothingness

Today has been of no significance. No one else will remember it the same as me, perhaps no one will even read this blog apart from me- but writing should not be committed to merely seeking the result of an audience. It is a patchwork of the brain and heart- it is life’s shadow; I aim to live manifold breaths in the explosion of growing sentences, the tracks of letters scribbled on paper and screen.

Today I sang; “Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?.. give me love like never before… because I’m empty inside, I don’t wanna live but I’m too scared to die… all my hot girls with me, we dance around and bounce them titties!!!” I ate tuna salad and drank Ovaltine.

Once work was done earning money (I shall be discreet, and mention only that I work from home) I read more Virginia, ‘Flush’ in particular- the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s red pedigree cocker spaniel. I was with him learning how to navigate intimacy when you’re the one left stuttering as third wheel when your beloved drinks romance instead of air. He gave up the fields and sunlight for her, but Barrett still fell for Browning’s lemon yellow hand gloves. This dog’s lesson of life resonated still, still with me, a dumb human. “Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love.” Anger means you care, and the fact I un-followed my ex’s instagram account (FINALLY) must mean that some archaic form of love is waning. I danced in the fields wearing pyjamas walking with Nelson and Pogo, rapping terribly and not caring. Love does not die, for it is an energy formed of stardust and energy does not cease. It just returns; creates a sort of equilibrium. He took it all and now it seems to be coming home, like how birds migrate across oceans. I no longer have to take anti-depressants. I hope hope can tattoo itself on my child core.

IMG_5542

Today’s poem is not my own, but one by 19th C. Turkish poet Leyla Hanim ( I found this poem in an old anthology of women poets I brought with my grandma for £2) – she ended her marriage before a week’s end and outraged the moralists of her day; my kind of woman xoxoxoxo

Let’s get going,
Start the festivities, 
Never mind what they say.

Drink wine 
With your loved one, 
Never mind what they say.

What do I care
If people approve or disapprove?
God bless my friends, 
Never mind what they say.

Leyla, indulge in pleasure
With your lovely friend:
Enjoy yourself in this world,
Never mind what they say. 

‘A Life!’ ‘A Lover!’ not ‘A Life!’ ‘A Husband!’

I haven’t written for a while here, mainly because I’ve been busy with grandma again; differentiating Acers from Oaks, peering closely at Hydrangeas the colour of your tonsils and patting St. Bernards called Marley on Headley Heath. Of all grandma has treated me to recently, the apex of our country forays has culminated in my dream for a while now- visiting the homes of my homegirl inspirations. Charleston and Monk’s House, the homes of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen.

Walking the rooms Vanessa painted by hand, seeing the round wood dining table, like that of King Arthur and imagining what wine they had; the fuchsias scrambling up Charleston’s stone face for sunlight above glitterings on the green lily pond and all the sunlight drenching time’s past canvases in her studio made my heart beat in a welcomed irregular rhythm. It felt familiar yet screened, like spying through a kaleidoscope of history warped and retold through the footsteps and talk of others. I think my favourite part of Charleston were the pink guest rooms Vanessa and her daughter Angelica painted. Pale candyfloss walls and miniature seats, paintings of wild women on the wardrobe formed of harsh, sporadic black outlines for contour, with a pale peach wash for flesh. I could imagine my sister, Daisy and me sleeping there- peering at ourselves in the large looking glass wearing summer dresses and flowers in our hair. So romanticised and impossible I KNOW, but still tangible there- in her house of art, ideas and beautiful defiance.

Monk’s House was particularly resonant with me, I saw hopes in reality.  A humble cottage with a garden, a bedroom opening out into dawn- a writing lodge of wood planks where ideas flourished from Virginia’s mind, butterflies born of ink; their wings assonance and metaphor, a lilting flight. Her home was not so washed in pattern and paint as her older sister’s, but still there was intent- her mind was the cement which composed brick into animation. The living room was mint green, flowers in jam jars occupied alcoves and a special design Vanessa dreamt up for her sister adorned the chairs there. My favourite part was her bedroom though, modest but perfectly formed- like a snail shell home. Books whispered plot, unwinding breath on their shelves; a tiled sink sealed the deal of magnificence for me. The walls were pale blue, I know she loved Leonard, but her pain meant she needed space; I understand that pale blue. The only difference I’d make though, would be to swap the single bed for a double. I’m no good by myself- I’d want to feel the security that if there was anyone else who wanted to be with me that there’d be enough duvet to share. We could wake up to watch dawn over apple trees together, read my poetry books and drink tea on the same pillows then go sit in the garden. Either lover or friends, it is besides the point- this is not my story or house, both are Virginia’s.

I have no poem to post today, but I didn’t want that to stop me from trying to write. Instead I’ll share a quote from Virginia that I love, from her longest love letter ‘Orlando’ dedicated to her lover and close friend, Vita. I know to understand her life fully, to encapsulate it is impossible- but what I write is done with love. Love and hope and admiration, and I can only will that that is enough. oxoxoxoxox

” Was it then to be admitted that Orlando was one of those monsters of iniquity who does not love? She was kind to dogs, faithful to friends, generosity itself to a dozen starving poets, had a passion for poetry. But love- as the male novelists define it- and who, after all, speak with greater authority?- has nothing whatever to do with kindness, fidelity, generosity or poetry. Love is slipping off one’s petticoat and- but we all know what love it…” 

higgedly piggedly but alive

“I understood how stingy and cheap and arrogant and ungracious I had been. Because it easy to love and sing one’s love. That is something I am extremely good at doing. Indeed, that is my art. But to be loved, that is true greatness. Being loved, letting oneself be loved, entering the magic and dreadful circle of generosity, receiving gifts, finding the right thank-yous, that is love’s real work.”- Helene Cixous, The Book of Promethea

I apologise for my lack of writing on here recently; it isn’t a lack of passion or lostness that’s the cause of no keyboard clicks, just higgedly pigggedly feelings that make me choose wine in the late afternoon over routine. I don’t drink because I hate my life- I drink to unlock an oozy lump at the core, like a communion with this unknown animal with claws and feathers which governs the human.

I was walking my dogs today and concluded it is no whimsy or flaw that ‘God’ shown in a mirror is ‘Dog’. In fact, I would be so heretical as to add that sometimes Dogs are much much better than bookish Gods- Dogs lick you and jump at your knees when you tell them your’e sad; God sometimes just sits there, and the point they’re trying to make is that only through suffering can you learn. But dogs just don’t see suffering like that. They see it and act because it is kind to help when you can.

IMG_9660

 

I looked at the sky and it was a comfort. I wish I could describe it as I know Virginia Woolf could, but I’ll just use my own words now. I used to think that Jacob Ladders smouldering water in air as cotton-gold warmths was heaven claiming us; that the light was the congregation of wing and the push-up from soil thrown on coffins reverberating upwards.

I think I’m wrong. That light was power because it is giving, bathing us constantly but we only care when it’s beautiful and we see it. I don’t believe in the finality of give and take anymore- we give and get then give away what we got again. Nothing stays but nothing ends either.

 

 

This entry is a bit directionless (not pointless, mind). But we must go with the flow. I managed to work the till by myself at the charity shop. I no longer wring my hands in worry or pluck my hair from the scalp when boys I talk to don’t reply; no longer do I contemplate all the reasons I am wrong and not worth a 30 second reply. I sit. I read my books and dream of “A Life! A Lover!” not A Life! A Husband!”  (ily so much Virginia)

Today’s poem isn’t my own, but by Caroline Bird. It made me smile today and that sometimes is enough (thank goodness)

Megan Married Herself

She arrived at the country mansion in a silver limousine.
She’d sent out invitations and everything:
her name written twice with “&” in the middle,
the calligraphy of coupling.
She strode down the aisle to “At Last” by Etta James,
faced the celebrant like a keen soldier reporting for duty,
her voice shaky yet sure. I do. I do.
“You may now kiss the mirror.” Applause. Confetti.
Every single one of the hundred and forty guests
deemed the service “unimprovable.”
Especially the vows. So “from the heart.”
Her wedding gown was ivory; pointedly off-white,
“After all, we’ve shared a bed for thirty-two years,”
she quipped in her first speech,
“I’m hardly virginal if you know what I mean.”
(No one knew exactly what she meant.)
Not a soul questioned their devotion.
You only had to look at them. Hand cupped in hand.
Smiling out of the same eyes. You could sense
their secret language, bone-deep, blended blood.
Toasts were frequent, tearful. One guest
eyed his wife — hovering harmlessly at the bar — and
imagined what his life might’ve been if
he’d responded, years ago, to that offer in his head:
“I’m the only one who will ever truly understand you.
Marry me, Derek. I love you. Marry me.”
At the time, he hadn’t taken his proposal seriously.
He recharged his champagne flute, watched
the newlywed cut her five-tiered cake, both hands
on the knife. “Is it too late for us to try?” Derek whispered
to no one, as the bride glided herself onto the dance floor,
taking turns first to lead then follow.
-By Caroline Bird

Spectrum Hearts

Today is when love was first legalised in glorious Britannia. By love I mean freedom- I mean not being afraid if you wanna kiss your neighbour’s lips- the boy who likes cricket and has freckles like strawberry seeds. Or your girl next door; her hair crimson at dusk and webbed topaz at dawn lolling shoulder blades. Love means bodies without fear: it means we see ourselves truly, without pretence or glamour.

It makes me feel such shame that we locked this away and threw away the key in ‘honour’s’ name for too fucking long. The glitter was dulling behind bars, and feet that should have been slow-dancing on wedding floors were stagnating in cells instead.

I am of the opinion that we are all a little bit gay on the inside: that people who deny themselves a little taste of colour are so mopey and angry at others because they’re jealous. So the old saying goes- happiness is the best revenge. What happier revenge than love; what do people try to stifle more in this world than compassion? I am only young, but I have my opinions. Thus says my brain: Love, desire; they’re persecuted because they are needed more than wanted, they are powerful beyond definition of language.

I am so proud with of the punk/prog/ gay pride progressions my country has made since it’s (fluctuating and never truly ending) dark ages. But other countries still deny their citizens the right to hold hands with beloveds in summer bloomed parks. To kiss in front of cinema screens; or to wed, that gold ring and memory forever. My love and thoughts go out all the way to those still trapped and afraid- I use my freedom of expression to hope, to will for yours. LGBTQ+ community: you are loved, please don’t feel ashamed or wrong or deadly. You are beautiful like festival colours and flower smells. You are beloved unto this soil, and please don’t let yourselves go down due to ignorance. You are seeded strong- will last out all winters.

Today’s poem was written when I was 16 and at a Pride March with all my friends. I remember feeling so alive, so liberated and joyful to be in the sun without fear on that pavement, holding up banners and shouting aloud into the sky and shop window faces. Happy LOVE. That’s all there is to it; LOVE, LOVE, LOVE xoxoxoxoxox

 

IMG_9539.JPG

PRIDE

I belonged there, dancing.
I belonged there- in the sherbet
fizzing July sun; laughter
and drums spectrumreaching
ears as second nature.  Pavements
baked in this crowd, excitement.

A carnival of colours marrying hope
with young fuckery on London’s
summer seasoned walkways.

Gimps and holy men and
inflorescence of old dykes holding
hands- our people glittering.
Mirages of possibility finally conjured
into warm heavythumped blood.
Souls sing “FUCK YOU”
and peace- no longer a classroom fantasy
but flesh, a commitment or kiss.

Dancing did so I whole
belong. Sweaty palms agripped
placard as grail- awakening,
awakening childlike loving
glee and must never be lost.
We shuffle with crowds, not noticing
how every step, each movement
is only a dust-breadth;
resembling twigs floating down
greenweeded river in this concrete
jumble- we pay no mind to swans staring
out shop windows or the dwindling
of scaffoled hours. The present was a
Present- and that’s where I
belonged.

The repetitions of her in my life-
collapsing yet again into crossed legs
on park floor fuzz in old trainers,
smiling as she starts off the roll-up,
sunning ourselves as strawberries
would. (If we had time to contemplate
such metaphors.)

We are enraptured in NOW,
this gay teenage fantasy-
warm wine swigged straight from the bottle
and we not yet 18, sparkling giggles down
our throats; rucksacks
smuggled on rails.
Face-paint smudged by
caresses- smiles and shouts;
this delicate stasis.

No worries of beating red
sticking to teeth like glue-
No terrified of myself dissolving,
dissolving…

It was my pride-
our pride of all hopes,
We belonged there
all the heart long.