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  Selected Poems

The Ramadan Sonnets

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Written in 1986
Published by Jusoor/City Lights Books, 1996
Republished in a revised edition, 2005,
by The Ecstatic Exchange

• The Inevitable

• Gastronomical Rigmarole

• Vocalization


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It's like practicing for death. No food or drink
   during daylight hours no matter
       what, in the
   heat of summer or
        cold of winter,
and no way out of it but through
sickness, pregnancy, menstruation, madness or travel.
So that

it's something that comes
inevitably each year, like it or not, whether or not
   you've got a knack for it, and
      some do, and love to fast, and
         thrive on it, but
     I do not, yet

each year it makes its visit, and year after
    year it builds up to be a
        sweet thing,

which makes it like death, the way it's
always on the
horizon, and an
absolute obligation, which must be

why Muslims often die well. They've had a
lifetime of Ramadans tenderizing them
for The Inevitable. And The

Inevitable surely comes.

1 Ramadan 1406
May 9, 1986

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Fresh crisp cantaloupe spooned from its skin,
tamari-soaked almonds and mahjoul dates,
hot Ceylon tea with honey mixed in,
golden delicious apples on plates,

mango, stringy, sweet fit for potentates,
tropical specialty served on our table,
strawberries, nestled each with their mates
red as sunsets, delicious as fable –

tastes more pungent than words are able
to say without calling up alien likenesses,
each one basically untranslatable
into anything but their own sweet essences.

Hagan Däz coffee ice cream in a bowl –
I could go on and on with this
        gastronomical rigmarole!

10 Ramadan (evening)

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During the dawn prayer, reciting
    Qur'an out loud, I saw

how suited the mouth and voice are
to sound the sacred syllables,

wetness of throat and tongue, tongue
    hitting teeth,
      curling and rolling of
    tongue, shape of cheeks, touch of
lips – and then how the

resonance from the heart, like the
core of an up-thrusting geyser, and

the darker recesses of the body-chambers,
how they shape the sounds that are made, and how then
around the sounds the body is shaped like a
     reverberant protoplasm, tending to
        refinement when the
           words are refined. How

perfectly suited to sound the Qur'an the total human
     organ is, the perfect
        alive membrane, and how,

at lesser degree, sweetly enjoyable it is for the
physical mouth to say beautiful poetry, and how

resounding it is to speak true, well-shot words,
how true speech is salutary to the
     whole body, and at

lesser and lesser levels common speech, then
     degrading speech, then
   foul talk and nonsense, how

destructive to the
body they are, until the

grossness of the physical is at its
     thickest and most
       piglike at the
lowest level of talk, and how the

face and eyes and posture of the speaker
reflect what he or she

16 Ramadan (morning)

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