TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- The Beekeeper of Sinjar

I am writing this in honour of the International Day of Peace, and I know that can seem cheesy or hollow considering the state of affairs of our planet are far from peaceful, but one must try to do what they think is right. To all the people who don’t care and think todays meaning is a hollow gesture I will quote Nadia, one of the women who tells her story to Dunya Mikhail in The Beekeeper: “The problem isn’t that the world is going to end, but that it continues without any change…”

This book is not for the faint-hearted. Page after page becomes blurred with splodges of tears filling up the space where language should be, page after page of Terrosism and the people who will never be the same because of it. Wives seeing their sons and husbands killed, daughters sold as slaves and their relatives who escaped, feeling guilt and fear every day they are without knowing what has happened to those they love most. I can’t say this is an amazing read, or that it is a page turner; many times I wanted to close its covers and for the paper to vaporise, for time to undo itself and the stories to unravel back to a nothingness we can all build upon. But it is necessary. It is imperative that we listen to those whose voices have been trodden down so low not even death is relief, but a mere solution to an end. We must listen so that if we can help, we do with all of the strength we can muster.

The Beekeeper of Sinjar is a memoir/report of ISIS’s invasion into the Sinjar reigion of northern Iraq by the exiled Iraqi poet, Dunya Mikhail. Through her mobile phone, she listens to stories told by Abdullah, a man who kept bees before no amount of honey could make his world sweet anymore. An innocent villager turned anti-terrorist freedom fighter, smuggling humans out of hell on earth. He didn’t just use his knowledge of the local area to help as many family members as he could to escape; his mobile phone number was passed through unknown hands and inpenetrable memories like a prayer, and he answered the calls one by one. He could have ignored them, have ran away like so others had to in order to survive. But some people are so good it makes you believe that there could be a God after all- a god with pistachio tea and resolve harder than the Sinjar mountain stones.

I don’t want to write the sufferings of the Yazidi captives here, I have no words that can express them- you have to hear their voices, recorded in Mikhail’s writing to even begin to understand one grain of the cruelty flesh and blood is capable of. Even then, I don’t  think anyone will ever be able to fully understand. You just feel, and feelings like that can’t just leave. They remain until some one replies, like ghosts haunting the living for closure. I dont think anyone can read this book without being affected somehow, and I know I’m not being very eloquent right now, but trust me- if you want to learn what humanity is, what love at its strongest is, you have to know Abdullah, and all the un-named people who helped him, who didn’t turn a blind eye.

So, today regognising international peace, I want to dedicate this paltry but well intentioned post to all those who never make it: who vanish in the confusions of hatred without a trace save for the memories their loved ones can never put down to rest. The the emptinesses hollowing out the lives of those they leave behind. I don’t know the names of the people’s lives recorded in this book, but that doesn’t matter- you dont need a name to be real. I never knew as an adult how hard love would be to come by, how many people just want safety for themselves and lock the door. I want us to do better. If I could, I’d use superman powers to go and rescue every refugee/ person in fear on the planet and give them the happiness we all feel and want to keep. But I can’t. Hope isn’t a one time event and it is never completed by one person- we are all superheroes, we just forget it sometimes. I hope after today, each and every day we keep the un-named dead and living who suffer under terror and hatred in our hearts, and use that feeling without words to push us to do better for one another. Go to protests. Educate yourself. Give money to the right places when you can. But even if you dont have the time or the money to learn, it is still simple. You just have to love strangers like you should love the mirror.

I know this post is a bit of a ramble (forgive me, it’s been a long day at work)- but I hope my message meets willing ears and eyes. Because I love dogs, I’m going to finish my proclamation for the endurance of peace with a section where Dunya is in exile talking about the western love of animals… As always, please do try to read this book, IT WILL CHANGE HOW YOU TREAT HOPE!!! But more importantly, please try to bring peace and never forget… ALL REFUGEES WELCOME AND DOWN WITH BORDERS!!!!

“… People here have such beautiful dreams. To annoy Americans with our nightmares simply means inviting them into our underworld… I’ve heard from my relatives that Americans care more about their dogs than about other people. Maybe because human love is incomplete. As Iraqis, we don’t have the habit of caring for dogs. Perhaps dogs are what we really need, to know the meaning of unconditional love. A dog doesn’t care where your from, it doesn’t care about your race or religion or colour. All the dog wants from you is to throw something toward the horizon, like a worry you finally brought out of your chest, so that it can run after that thing and grip it tightly between its teeth, panting and excited, as if the whole world has just been caught between its jaws…”

Pocket Revolutionaries

Survival is difficult. I don’t mean Bear Gyrlls macho survival skills eating maggots or sleeping in a goat carcas. I mean the endurance of being able to wake up every day without instantly loosing hope in the world we inhabit as soon as your eyes scan the news. As soon as all the misogynistic/ racist/ classist/ general unwarranted cruelties all come to light, and you’re told “That’s just the way things are“.

I know that worrying about abuse and violence doesn’t prevent people suffering, but thinking is a start and the more you imagine the lives of others, the more unfathomable it seems to be able to ignore all the pain. Not imagining in some wierd voyeuristic, self-righteous way; I just mean, the more you think of others, the more potential for inciting a change of attitudes- which then hopefully leads to a decrease in the shittery that is ‘human nature’. 

This morning I woke up and did the mundane task of reading the newspaper with my orange juice ( I sound so bougie lol- its just my grandma likes to get the good old broadsheets still in their big flapping wings of paper). There was Windrush. There was the murder of Kim Wall (may you forever rest in peace xoxo). There were ambulance staff being sexually assulted and people in Nicaragua killed. The world is so beautiful because of it’s diversity; but this diversity and the incessantly shifting natures behind the diversity also means a huge pick’n’mix of the absolute worst parts of what we are capable of too. Reading all the stories didn’t armour me a thicker skin of acceptance, I didn’t try to make it make sense: I cried.

Crying is seen as something wimpy and that you should only do if absolutley nobody can see. Nope. Not for me. There’s nothing strong in denying, of repressing terror and fear in the name of blind comfort. Crying just means you care, a lot- and caring a lot is definatley something this world needs more of. But to return to my previous point: worrying incessantly does nothing to help those people whose lives you are invested in wanting to help. Putting obvious activism aside (‘obvious’= joining political parties, starting your own grass roots groups, protesting, donating to causes and signing petitions/ nagging politicans), I would like to propose another kind of activism that helps one cope with the world’s miseries without becoming an angry, detached, disillusioned shell: pocket revolution. The small, yet so so so necessary acts of kindness and understanding  that make the world- well, at least your patch of it- better.

POCKET REVOLUTION- my grandma hugging, not telling me off for being ‘too involved‘ with what I see in the world when I cry to the morning paper. The kind man who gave me a pink geranium after grandma and I admired his Tulips. It is smiling when the dogs cover me in dirty river water, not shouting at them. The mother whose pram I helped carry down the tube steps despite rushing crowds and the little girl who I made smile when I was feeding pidgins. Basically: not being afraid of strangers. Not being afraid to be childish and silly, or afriad to be the first one to say sorry. It is complimenting strangers and smiling because if Donald Trump/ Amber Rudd/ Theresa May/ Kim Jong Twat can hate people for no reason, then I am going to fucking try my very hardest to love people for no reason other than the fact you breathe and feel and eat and shit pretty much the same as me; but with a lot of interesting details I have no idea about (and that I would love to get to know over a cup of tea sometime).

I know I probably sound very righteous and I haven’t come up with any break through political rhetoric to destroy the montser of patriachal imperial capitalism… But I tried. And that is the point. We should at least try to try.

I was at the train station reading some poems after the newspaper, and the one I want to share is another example of what I would call pocket revolution by a Ghanaian poet, Joe De Graft called ‘An Un-African Breakfast’. His positivity made me feel stronger, and so I would love to spread the loveeee further. (it also kinda reminded me of my boyfriend in how happy Joe sounded despite all the world’s various brands of cruelty- both he and my luv are definatley pocket revolutionaries) xxoxoxoxoxoxox

AN UN-AFRICAN BREAKFAST 

So here I am this morning
Early in the Kitchen.

The aroma of fresh coffee on the boil,
Nose-filling aroma of good fresh coffee
on the boil;
And this kitchen is good to be in
And good to hear the browning water
babble-bubbling inside the glass-trap
head of the percolator;
And the good wife still asleep in her vono bed
Dreaming good dreams, I hope,
Of me!

All night the tummy hasn’t been well,
Running like it wanted nothing more
to do with me for eating what I
do not know-
All night a running tummy;
Till at last out of weariness
I drop into oblivion between 4 and 5
Quite unknowing –
Deep oblivion
Sweet as feathers…

Then crash out of nowhere
The white day comes bursting in
Through frosted louvres…..

And its good to be alive!

Good indeed to be alive,
So thank we god
For everything,
And the myriad sparrows
Chirrupping in the fresh morning sun outside
While the percolator bubbles……

(The poem is quite long, I can’t type the whole poem out but I highly highly highllllyyyy recommend reading his poetry, they are soul food)

Hasta la vista, baby

Tonight is my last night at home since the summer holidays began before going back to uni in Canterbury for my final year. It is mixed emotions, a subtle blend and balance of excitement filtered through with slight wishes for home routines to stay.

It is always hard making a change, be them little or large- but no change will ever seem so frightening as how my mind was fretting the night before the first ever day of university. The transition down to Kent wasn’t helped by a 2 hour traffic jam; made slightly more entertaining by a troupe of drunken football fans wandering between the cars, slurring around half formed conversation starters. I guess nothing is ever perfect, you’ve just got to just roll with it- accept the swaps: no longer shall your dreams of arriving early and without blustering be true; but still, at least try to laugh on the M11.

Right now, the thought of not cuddling Pogo and Nelson each day, of not goofing around with my sister or reading books snuggled in my room late at night, are sobering losses to contend. But, with every down there is an up: I shall see my friends again tommorow, and Canterbury- a city I have come to really love living in. The term will begin and that means time to write poems and read more books- life never stops giving, it just doesn’t keep giving the same things.

Here is baby Pogo (AKA Satan) asleep on my butt after cuddles ❤️

But that makes me think more- does life GIVE, or do we make actions to GET; for better or worse? I guess the only way to find out is to make changes.

Today’s poem isn’t really a poem, but a song. For my 21st birthday, Dad brought me a collection of CD’s by one of the world’s most tender and beautiful folk singers- Sandy Denny. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” is a bittersweet ballad of love and loss and how it feels like an evening sky, full of colours like stained glass windows or jewels. I am sorry to leave home, but it is a comfort to know who and where I’m leaving won’t forget me, no matter how many changes I make.

Who Knows Where the Time Goes 

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving.

But how can they know it’s time for them to go?

Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming. I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes? Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving

Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving. I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me. I know it will be so until it’s time to go

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

 

 

3 Types of loss

Loss is a sprawling hurt. I thought about three types of loss for just this moment – the good kind, the unexpected kind, and the bittersweet kind.

The Good Kind

Today I finally felt anger instead of limp sadness thinking of my ex-first-boyrfriend. I won’t go into details, but I finally said enough: you can leave now. All the emotional twistings of intent and hope into confusion and shittiness. How I felt guilty for not being good enough, too much to handle and plain wrong. NO MORE I AM WORTHY OF LOVE MOST OF ALL FROM MYSELF I WILL NO LONGER CRY ABOUT A PERSON WHO ONLY LIKED ME WHEN I WAS WHAT HE WANTED. This is a good kind of loss, like spring cleaning. I hope my heart stays this buyount floating on its own Island.

The Unexpected Kind

I thought I lost my small dog Pogo today. She ran into some thorny undergrowth and wouldn’t come when I called her name. I screamed and shouted and climbed through mud and cow poos to try to find her. I couldn’t believe it was happening- she could be eaten by a fox, out on the railway or scampering in a new field I couldn’t reach. Luckily I found her, unluckily I had to chase her again at top speed to finally grab her. This loss was brief but powerful, it made me love and loathe her at the same time. Lesson: Keep small naughty dogs on their leashes.

The Bittersweet Kind

Soon I have to go back to university- whilst this prospect of seeing all my friends again and beggining my course is very exciting, I shall miss what I’m leaving here for a while. My blue book case, the thick walls of my bedroom, my family and pets, the walks near my house and a plentifully stocked fridge. These losses are reoccuring, but I know when I leave home shan’t vanish. It will be a speck that is a big size in my brain to be reached by train and rail.

On this note, today’s poem is the one that reminds me of my sister when I first had to leave for uni- my sister said loss is

 

just not having things. Even when we’re apart, I never lose my sister xoxoxoxo

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Leaving and Leaving You

 

When I leave you postcode and your commuting station,
When I left undone all the things we planned to do
You may feel you have been left by association
But there is leaving and leaving you.

When I leave your town and the club that you belong to,
When I leave without much warning or much regret,
Remember, there’s doing wrong and there’s doing wrong to
You, which I’ll never do and I haven’t yet,

And when I have gone, remember that in weighing
Everything up, from love to a cheaper rent,
You were all the reasons I thought of staying,
And none of the reasons why I went

And although I leave your sight and I leave your setting,
And our separation is soon to be a fact,
Though you stand beside what I’m leaving and forgetting,
I’m not leaving you, not if motive makes the act.

Sophie Hannah

Volaility of feathers

I am a volatility of feathers- one day sweet as apricots freshly brimming up with ruddiness on the twig and branch; Smiling is for granted, even with no make up and a lil bloat on; without having spoken properly to another person, be they friend, family or bachelor- on these day’s life is magnificent and mine. The sadness of this volatility is it’s inert nature: things cannot remain so.

Other times, simple acts of willed neglicence or bluff, intended cruelties- which most people flounce off with an expletive and distraction- cause me to imagine approximatley 100 reasons of said blow’s cause; the nature of the cause; how this cause is intertwined with and affects other causes etc etc. AKA- I cry and get mad at myself for uncomprehended reasons.

I feel like this blog has no poetry to it; I want to write about important, universal issues and not just focus on bitty, repetitive autobiography the whole fucking time. But it is late, I am hungry and simply want to savour this day where I have willed survival and not Sorrow’s feathers.

I watched the T.E.D Talk, “The gentle power of highly sensitive people” by Elena Herdieckerhoff and it made me feel so elated to know my propensity to cheshire cat smile at the sight of my dogs excited for walks, in tandem with unfathomable hours of thinking and crying and blaming ghots some more, is not a weakness. I felt like Billy Pilgrim’s long lost sister- “And so it is.” The fragility of things and my incessant hankerings for answers that justify tenderness are no joke. Hale-fucking-luja!!!!

Rambling and waffling are beyond the realms of energy right now, so I am just going to end on a little quote (So much for exclusive poetry- haha) by another highly woke and wonderful woman, Minna Salami-

“Only a person who sees and values the humanity in everyone can be a revolutionary, because only a person who sees and values the humanity in everyone can do so about themselves.”

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?

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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.

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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.