Freedom from the Forbidden (a poem)

The poem and note below were written January 5th 2010; I’m transferring them from the old blog.

One of my favorite Pashto songs, written by Ajmal Khattak and sung by Gulzar Alam, goes:

Raadak sho zrha isaarawale ye na sham
Khula maata kha da kho gandalay ye na sham

Rough translation:

My complaints and concerns overwhelm my heart; I can no longer keep it in!
My mouth is better off broken than sewn

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“Forbidden” – a poem


I have dug inside me,
A well – a deep, infinite well.
In it lives with me My God
The God of both women and men,
The God of the oppressed and the liberated,
The God of the cursed and the blessed

There with me, my feelings dwell,
Far from the fondness of human thought,
Unwelcome elsewhere
The feelings I’m forbidden to relish,
The secrets I’m forbidden to reveal,
The questions I’m forbidden to raise,
The mistakes I’m commanded to regret,
But I don’t. For I have no regrets.
Only mistakes to learn from.

There, I speak the unspeakable
I quarrel with My God,
And My God allows me this –24776_392097357371_2911969_n
And there, I think the forbidden
And My God hears me, too,
There, I demand answers,
And My God answers me, too,
My God hears the shattering of my voices
And pacifies my frustrated nerves
There, I heave sighs suppressed elsewhere,
And screams ignored elsewhere,
But I must scream,
For the forbiddance of speaking has boiled my brain,
And the ludicrousness of the ulama, the “learned,” vexes me,
And the labels of heresy and blasphemy grieve my soul
But I must tell my stories.

And I tell my God,
Why have you forbidden me these natural thoughts?
Why am I nothing but a dangerously seductive being, who
Incites sordid feelings in men?
You must forgive me, Dear God, for I mean no harm,
But you must permit me to ask –
Why do you objectify me when You created me Yourself?
They tell me You’re all-powerful;
But then why did you make me the reason men behave so despicably
When they see my face, or my hair,
Or my ankles,
Or my eyes?

And My God smiles at me
And tells me
“Don’t confuse My guidelines with the orders of men.”
Just as the well starts to flood, and I
Develop confidence and valor
And my spirit ascends the seventh heaven,
And my heart glows with peace
And my mind enfolds the universe

I have become a woman.
A woman at last.
And I’m going to tell my stories.

~ Orbala
March 1, 2010

When God Isn’t Watching (a poem)

My latest poem. I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time now, and I finally got to sit down and do it. The idea was overwhelming, and it’s a huge relief to have gotten it off my chest at last.

Thank you for reading!

When God Isn’t Watching

When God isn’t watching
66918_10151462367907372_631275637_nAnd she lets herself be consumed by a pain I don’t understand
I stand there watching her,
Silently breaking into tiny, sacred flakes of cotton
The way God’s words will on the Day of Judgment
As she screams of sin
Of God’s wrath
Of hell
She confesses things I don’t understand as sins
She screams, plucking her heart out of her soul
Her spirit, her strength shriveling up
And she withers into submission to the Divine
I stand still, watching from afar
As I make sense of her pain
Pain caused by the wrath of a Being I don’t know how to love
By the guilt of transgression against an almighty God
By the love of a God embedded in her soul
And yet, yet, she breathes a sigh of joy into the world
A sigh that guides her out of nothingness
But into a universe that belongs to her
And she slowly molds herself back into the perfection she embodies
She again becomes all things sacred
The things she touches and feels and desires become sacred
The spaces she occupies become sacred
All aura around her beams with her noor, the noor of God
For indeed, heaven lies beneath her feet
Time and again, when God isn’t watching,
She becomes her own God,
Her own heaven and her own hell
I still watch from a distance, wondering
Wondering how she finds solace in a merciless God who
Chooses to remain oblivious to her pain
As she breaks over and over, mending herself over and over again
But alone
When God isn’t watching

~ Orbala
December 15, 2014