Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arab Cinderella: A Life Poem

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013   No comments

By Laila Alawa*

I always felt
as though my life, my being, my very self
were forevermore saddled with the
very expectations of
generations before me,
dusty individuals, their fervent whispers carrying,
moving, traveling,
across centuries of near-still air,
air rippled only with the occasional revolution,
scented softly with rosewater and hot Arabic coffee,
that their unfulfilled wishes, needs and every desire,
were now mine,
like a sort of modern-day Cinderella wish,
upon turning sixteen years of age, a welcome to the
world of
a dissatisfied life,

one in which you try your very hardest but
never get anywhere,
where you put your very best in,
but only the worst comes out,
a tired life.
It was one bestowed upon me,
an one I tried to shake off,
a cloak of heavy, dull satin,
pinned tight about my neck,
Countless attempts. So much of my
being put in to making that cloak
shine, making it glow,
failed efforts heavy with the
stench of misintention,
a slew of sins.
Dissatisfaction. I began to
feel uncomfortable,
tears springing to my eyes as I contemplated
the heavy, deep fastenings of the cloak, only
unfastened through true lawlessness or truthful
I stumbled about with the heavy cloak
until one day
one morning,
fresh, calm and cool, the birds alight with their trills,
I faced towards the Kaabah and
felt the true cool of the deen
surrounding me and
transforming the cloak of dull expectations into
one of shining possibilities,
open and airy and effervescent
a garb of intentions, open worlds
a refuge of Islam.


You can usually find Laila engaged in a deep conversation with a stranger, or nursing a cup of Earl Grey tea with three teaspoons of sugar. She graduated from Wellesley College in 2012 and currently works at Princeton University, conducting a study on Muslim American perceptions of belonging and community within the greater American diaspora. Laila funnels her love for jewelry making into her own business and works to bettering the Muslim American experience for both Muslims and America at large. She heads a faith anthology project for Muslim American women called Coming of Faith.


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