Sunday, August 8, 2010

Voice and Veil

Voice and Veil

"I do not write to be a poet.

I write to find out who I am."

-Tuqa (Age 22, Palestinian)

I’ve had a hundred names, a dozen families, met poets, writers, racists, inspired, liars, lovers of life, lovers of strife, faced sloth in my soul, seen the sincere and surreal, cursed beautiful sea breezes, cuddled scraggly dumpster cats, felt like algae scum and the rays of the sun, I’ve been a believer and atheist, prayed in mosques, churches, synagogues, houses, and trees. Meditated over mocha with genius, sipped strained tea alongside women with destiny, I’ve got bruises I can’t explain and gained an extra kilo in couscous. I made chocolate chip cookies in broken ovens in five countries, licked a cauldron of pine cone pudding clean. Sat on crashing seas at sunset and sunrise, trekked mountain peaks in the city and countryside.

I’ve got run-on sentences with incomplete thoughts, my words aren’t’ unique, just another inspection and expression of life’s constant contradiction. I’m a living cliché who find failure a mere fiction, who isn’t anxious with the unknown, seeks beauty in the evident.

I found home on benches, caves, couches of strangers, floor of new families, empty backrooms, and crowded buses. Good guys and bad guys don’t exist, honesty is subjective, justice sometimes objectionable, and a witness to unmasked beauty that cannot be undone or denied.

I’ve got olive oil in my veins, dirt in my skin, holes in my jeans, and a hunger in my heart. Craved cities, drank deserts, devoured forests, and still wanted a banana for dessert. Swallowed honey milk, poison, kindness, and the tap water. Saw weak wealth and powerful poverty, found wonder in waste bins and scorn for sky scrapers.

I’ve wept onto the shoulders of strangers, spit in the face of pests, been scarred, strengthened, and I feel like I just started. Was avoided, ignored, praised, and stalked. I’ve been met with prejudice and open minds; spy or scholar? Daydreamed on rooftops, got ripped off, harassed, robbed, admired, and found generosity without looking. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling spoiled, weak, strong and inspired. I’ve lied, touched truth, tasted tajine, and freedom. With homesickness and wanderlust in my heart that I can’t help, but cry out to convey….

The people and places that shaped me today:

Yasmeen, Nasreen, Khalood, Tamam, Ola, Ikram, Marade, Tuqa, Karima, Ms. Karam, Amal, Haythem, Afef, Rund, Hind, Bushra, Yaseen, Omar, Khadija, Haj, Hajja, Oumnia, Lina, Nadia, Emoi, , Nas, Hana, Khaled, Asad…

Optimism and cynicism. Passion and reserve. Liberal and conservative. Gregarious and timid. Proud and bashful. Rebellion and tradition. Socialist and Anarchist. Believer and atheist. Poised and awkward. Courageous and fearful. Compassionate and callous. Imaginative and ordinary. Faith and doubt. Altruistic and self-consumed. Rage for rights and sing softly for simply love.

We are a bundle of contradictions inextricably bound.

Our connections a kite string, bond beyond borders, sisterhood and sibling in soul, how ink can carry the heart. A search for our voice is a search for our self, identity discovered, discard the constructed. Pioneers on our paths of passion, deeper understanding in self-reflection and outward connections. We are our mirrors, we are our windows. For Poetry is the soul’s singing humanity to the singular and the whole. A connection of individual identity and universal understanding shared through words scribbled on scraps of napkin, whispered in loud cafes, proclaimed on street corners, and forwarded on facebook. Form fades, but the energy remains. We join in life’s grand cacophony of music. Write it, whisper it, sing it, shout it… to shed our veils, to find our voice.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sing Me Spanish Techno


I held the limp screen in my lap, feebly clinging to the hinge on the keyboard. "Oh girlie, what have I done to you?"

With holes in my jeans and threadbare and sweat-stained shirts I see how rough I've lived this year. I've shed books, clothes, and life's accessories. I've accepted the loss of things that I once believed were necessities and gained a strange sense of empowerment from this fact. Yet, as my laptop lay pathetic in my arms, exposing weak wires, the sound of cracking plastic, and the soft, electric whimper of the device attempting to function. She broke, but not me.

I sat downtrodden, but not devastated in the port. I had just been on four buses in two hours. What I thought would be an easy skip, jump and a hop to Spain turned into a four hour wait at the port unsure if the bus I was supposed to take to Malaga would be in Algeciras when I arrived. Once on the ferry I sat slumped in a corner seat sweating. The women around me were gulping down water and complaining loudly while the men used hats, paper, and shirts as inadequate fans. In an attempt to swallow my worry I scanned the room observing the womens' hands lined with dark swirling henna. I stared down at my own stained hands and felt a connection that to explain would leave me sounding superficial. But the mere fact that we all were bonded by a long tradition of hennaed hands before travel left me feeling as if I was in the company of sisters.

When the ferry docked we clambered for the exit embracing the salty, cool air. After a jumbled line at the passport control I reached the street breathing an intense sigh of relief as the bus stood ready and waiting. I collapsed onto the curb, finally the spark of joy slipped into my thoughts.

I'm in Spain.

It may seem silly but this is a place I've only read about in poems. I had desired to see Spain, but it was always a distant idea that was confined to the "someday..." But what this year has shown me is that someday is the day you decide it to be. You can't wait for your dreams to present themselves to you. You can't be an observer in your life hoping that your life will be fulfilled by happenstance. It's your life. Own it, live it. Even if you never make it to Spain you will have learned, lived, and loved the moments it took to reach your conclusion even if the end is not what you had first imagined. But as I sleepily stared into the twinkling parking lot lights I knew that my somedays were in my pockets.

The bus bumped and I opened my eyes as the driver turned his head to me, "Malaga?" I nodded and before I could wipe the sleep from my eyes I was abandoned on the roadside at 2am in an unfamiliar city without a map or a clue how to get to m hostel. But as I strode, back saddled with my belongings I felt confident and awake. I turned down a side street to a large sign that proclaimed "sex shop" with the one after it declaring "churros!" This was going to be interesting city. After half an hour of wandering and speaking in Arabic when asking for directions to confused Spaniards I gave up and and paid the four euros to take a taxi to the hostel. A friendly Englishman tiredly greeted me as the clock neared 3am and soon I was wrapped in a sheet still wearing my clothes with a fitted sheet rolled up in a ball as a pillow.

I woke up late, missed breakfast, and attempted to obtain some conception of where I was. I hit the streets in search of a supermercado. Malaga is the home of Picasso, beautiful beaches, and amazing views. But I had heard there was good fruit in Southern Spain and gazing at the piles of peaches and crates of watermelons seemed more intriguing than the starriest starry night. Once back in the hostel munching on an apple I fell into conversation (as hostels goers are prone to do) with the other bedraggled looking bunch on the couch. After a few moments of conversation I was walking along the beach with a hungover Asian man in aviators and a pink headband, a solo adventuring German girl, and a man in floral baggy capris and bright blond hair from Denmark. Our mission: Crepes.

Conversation, crepes, and inspiration as the leader of of our expedition (dude with the amazing trousers) explained how he was on a self-propelled project traveling around the world discussing climate change. He had a job and in his time off and vacation would be spent persuing this side venture. When I questioned the logistics of this idea he explained, "you have to do what you believe in, make your own project, with or without support. You just can't wait for someone to come along and make things happen for you." After quickly consuming our food, my fingers sticky with honey, I walked down a small cobblestone street while my crepe compadres hopped into a taxi to head back to the hostel. I stopped in a large bookstore, gazing longingly at the rows of bright, crisp books. I flipped through the guides on Andalusia and wandered over to the English Language novels. Books are expensive, heavy and take up a lot of space. Buying a book means a time and space commitment. Stack sang and tempted like sirens. I should be focusing on other things. The unbent pages would have to be left that way. I walked out with my Andalusia guide book and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I have gained a lot of self-control and discipline, but I broke. Besides, I count this as research for teaching Special education. Reading, joking, and half-heatedly glancing at the action movie blasting the night wound down and I headed to bed.

The next morning, missing breakfast again, I had a large glass of juice and consumed my book as I sunk into the couch while Bob Marley blasted and the cleaning lady threatened to mop my feet if I didn't pick them up. I had a plan to head to a small Islamic village but with a long bus ride and a shining sun I opted fora trip to the beach.

Skin. Everywhere there's skin. Men and women alike with bare chests, breasts, speedos, unashamed and unencumbered by clothing. I was feeling daring in my t-shirt, but a woman wearing a jeweled tube top, pant less and propped up in high wedged heels walked past unabashed and left me feeling prudish in her perfumed wake. I eventually dared to don my swimsuit into the black specked sand in a small beach town near Malaga. Book, music, and waves. A short trip turned into an all day affair as my beach bum buddy repeatedly begged another hour. I watched a group of Arab boys playing soccer near the water. I wanted to join them feeling more at home with Arabic in the air. Soon I realize it's near 6pm and sun dazed we grab our things. I felt a little burned, but didn't worry because I had been reapplying my SPF60 lotion regularly. We headed off to a tapas bar that was highly recommended, but as we walked I became increasingly unsteady. We crossed the street to the front door and my vision began to dance away. I stumbled into a chair, everything bright oranges and shadows. My head fell into my hands as I mumbled some apology. The waitress was soon at my side with a glass of sugary coke, pressing me to drink while she held an ice pack on my neck. Bread and more coke appeared at my side, but I felt too sick to eat. After a while the dizziness had not receded. My German hostel friend got me into a taxi and we drove back. I lay down a bit and scribbled a letter to her in thanks and shared some Morocco advice. Feeling rather sick and helpless I mused on the incident. It was one of the first times that I had let someone help me without protest. I had no other choice, but it was a lesson in humility. It was a lesson in learning how to take.

I remember standing in the restaurant kitchen in Chefchaoen with my Spanish friend when he loudly questioned, "Do you feel guilty?" We had not been speaking, but were waiting for our turn at the cutting board. The inquiry more than surprised me. I stumbled out the affirmative. "Si, I could tell. Just by the way you stand." Later as we sat on a hill sipping the setting sun in a field of tall grass he returned to the subject. He explained that a large component to my unearned feelings of guilt were that I could give easily, but I did not know how to take. Learning how to take means you see yourself worthy of receiving something, of needing others, and having others see that they are needed. It creates something very strong and connecting. It makes you human. It makes you better able to give.

The next morning when I had regain my balance I examined my skin. My abdomen (or belly as is more appropriate when describing my torso area) was the color of a boiled lobster. Soon welts formed and I would be forced to know areas of my skin that I had ignored and taken for granted. Not only had my day in the sun given me a lesson in accepting help from others, but I was educated in the necessity of respecting and taking care of your body. My body is something that I have spent the year abusing, ignoring and pushing without much sympathy or care, but as I winced attempting to apply aloe, biting my lip to refocus the pain I realized that even if I do not love my body as a temple or adorn, primp, and dote on it as others do I must respect it as an instrument. My body's been neglected, beaten, burned, and battered. My skin's been cut, covered, ignored, and dirtied without care. Though I usually reject my body as anything more than a vehicle that I must keep functioning, fed, and warm I shouldn't ignore it. To find the light in this scorched place it became an opportunity to take care of myself and see that the new self on the inside will be accompanied by a new skin on the outside.... after a very painful week and several bottles of lotion and packages of ibuprofen. But really the main lesson I am taking away from this is not just about learning how to take or respecting my body, but about how god was punishing me for wearing a bikini. Never going to happen again. I promise.

My Andalusia adventure itinerary: Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla, and Madrid

I have so much to say, drunk on words, music, anecdotes and sangria. But it may take a bit to get to: Poco a poco, shwaya shwaya, little by little. Until I can tell you of all the wonderful foods, castles, gardens, and minarets turned bell towers here is a poem written in one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever been in. Granada's Al-Hambra is a glimpse of what paradise could look like.

Rose petals embrace sunlight, glow pinks, sparks of light despite shade
Cyprus tree towers sway in soft, cool, breezes
Jagged teeth to the wide-mouth sky of endless blue
Sunlight painted on ivy drips from stone
Vines like veins stretch from soil to soul
Water in your eyes is thawed mountaintop snow
Silence non-existent as the water trickle stream sings
Leafs a choir of soft shush and sway
Twang church bell echoes, background melody
Honeysuckles overspill falling onto our heads
Smells sweet, strong nostalgia
Fingertips brush boxed hedge bushes
A key to memory- grandmother's eyes, perfume, wrinkles
Magnolia thick trunks with milk white blossoms
I write her name upon a golden magnolia leaf
Let it drift onto an earthly heaven
Trees much older than her yet it seems as if
They were planted just for this moment
A reminder the universe conspired long ago, happy harmony
Planted seeds of purest love, simply for my second of sight
Hundreds of years from its conception a connection
Stretches finger tips to soils deep, earth, mud, and kinship blood


PS- Spain pics:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Henna's like Mulberry Stains

(I decided I like henna because it reminds me of having mulberry stains when I was young)

Sip sweet tea, drip from the pot, slop onto the paper placemats

Black ink runs gray on my doodle drawl childish hieroglyphics

Bent toothpick stars, faded playing cards, black pepper magic

Rafa token toking Rif mountain kif pinched in a thin, wooden pipe

Tagine steam, cigarette smoke, Hindi movies on mute and fairy lights flash

Moroccan music jumbles call to prayer and call to mother Africa

Stones and scraps, blue and white checker board, night sinks in

Lean close, whose turn?, diagonal jump over hot harira

Olive pits in piles, bread crumb shadows dance by candlelight

Wit, wicks, and wax melt, develop diminutive in approach to dawn

I query simply asking for help suddenly peeling potatoes

Elbow deep washing dishes, boil tea water, serve and smile

Brika (lighter) flick flick-a spark the stove and head spin hot box

Back room kitchen bender, a week of restaurateur, realized dream

Communal wood fire oven hang out, sweets and marriage proposals doled

Crackle twigs, plastic crate throne, awaiting baking concoctions like a local

Hike through fields of fingery leaves, wild mint, ripening vegetable livelihood

Tea, almonds, peach jam and sunshine, swallows sing, greedily I embrace breezes

Seek peaks, stumble descents, scramble up trees, spin, swirl and tangled on swings

Market day with chef and crew, greasy fish and chips sandwiches on low plastic stools

Stories, lies, and truths mix, fade, and swell unsure of beginnings, lost to endings

Chefchaouen magic, expeditions flickering flame on my memory

(The Big Rock Candy Mountain)

Breath caught in chest, airport reunion, lost croissants, a day on the train

Past and present skins stretch, selves collide; oil and water or something soluble?

Conference of art, youth, international, poetic, site-specific, bourgeois pioneers

Return to the Big Rock Candy Mountain, a week from Market Day, what luck

Indian inspiration, a trio of bohemian boys, Spaniard, plus the Professor

Rooftop guitar, drums, hands clap, homemade hot air balloon drifts into the stars

Short term wonder at instant companions for food, music, magic, adventure

Prepared my perfect breakfast, watermelon drip, bread, oil, honey, fresh fruit fancy

Honey comb thick crystals in a Nescafe jar, dark verde oil coka cola bottle warmed in morning’s sun

Perilous journey along the Monkey Man’s path lost, but Professor’s a blazed trailblazer

(Last Night in Rabat)

Yeum al-couscou sayyid (happy day of couscous) a return to Rabat for last goodbye and full belly

Cake, tea, and henna swirls the room, my hands laced in design though crumble off orange for hours

Rabbati sunset, harira search discovers back alley cafeteria, embrace the triumph of the unplanned

Concrete circus swirls with smoke, grilled meat, garbage and sweet.

Bubbles float past, rainbow colors dance, pop

Train ride confusion, Bert and Ernie cookie, woman for nookie, uncomfortable touching

Woman shouts Spanish names, her true profession unveiled, chunky fake jewelry, ticket in cash

Shirt sprayed and soaked by prostitutish perfume, propositioned? Unsure, so sorry, so stumped!

Midnight in Fez, reservation gone, business ethics and propriety sold for instant cash

Family riad alternative, bed like bricks, breathe it in as line for later anecdote

Hot sun, hard goodbyes, eyes seek out ferry escape, Spain awaits

Moroccan magic mystifies my enchanted heart, inspired by reality and possibility

Understand the self can’t be undone, experience without ending only evolution



PS- pictures


For a belated/early mother's day/father's day gift I decided I would fill my bag with colored pencils, paper, candy, and pens and dole them out to the children of The Big Rock Candy Mountain. I only have this one picture of some of the kids who live on the mountain with their goods, but I made sure to attempt to explain that this was a gift to them from my parents. Al yeum al mama waa baba. They were too distracted by the paper to care. Happy Mother and Father's Day : )

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lies, Veils, and Country Songs


I’m tired of telling you that your bread is the best I’ve tasted, that your coffee is sweeter and your people most generous. I’ve exhausted myself with the same phrases of praise when what I want to say is simply shukran. Each of your cities is a paradise; each of your cities has garbage and stray cats. I love them all just equally- none more than the others. Like asking which freckle on my forearm I prefer- each a part of me, ingrained into my skin, a mark of who I am; by birth and by sun. Each city’s spirit and smog a tattoo, enduring henna stains. But I’m just a soundless breath in your city’s air, a filled chair at your table, a phantom figure, sometimes fad, that fades in a month. Despite my abstraction, I love your cities and I’ll taste of home, but until my year is ended my legs end at the ankles, floating just above the street. Though my feet find firm ground on my chest and my permanent address just above my stomach I do feel a need for place more granite and concrete. Spray paint my nicknames on bricks down alleys and own a phone attached to the wall. But I know that even when the same pigeon returns to my windowsill for bread crumbs I may not feel fully home and at ease for every city I’ve seen holds a piece of me though they may not want or care. So as I wake in Marrakesh or Muscat, Cape Town or Cairo, Damascus or DC, I will be in love, but a love not zero sum. It is not a thing contained in the heart but seeds scattered in every spot I’ve daydreamed in that grow without my care or tending to reach beyond the bounds of my hearts comprehension.


(feel free to add your own, there are lots of opportunities for things that rhyme with veil, which to me is very exciting)

Painted red lips, black outlined eyes

Powder caked thick, suffocating skin

Perm-fried, dyed, electrified

Contact lenses, iris barricade

Glossy shine, French manicured nail

How we all do have our veil

Hair gel-drenched helmet

Leather jacket despite sunshine

Dark sunglasses reflect and mirror

Cologne catastrophe, fence offensive

Woman conquest, your holy grail

How we all do have our veil

Tie tightened, centered smartly

Trim, fitted, pinstripe, and blazer

Oak desk barricade, boss embossed

Being, business card convenience

Certificate banner, corner office jail

How we all do have our veil

Swim in neutrality, abandon color

Embrace routine, regular, redundant

Shun spotlights for shadows

Plastic smile, upbeat masquerade

Sweeten self, personality bake sale

How we all do have our veil

Books, brain, brag; keyboard clack

Wit niche, smartass kitsch

Straight A, armed with blunt charm

Shun sympathy, seek solitude

Sincerity spent, self gone stale

How we all do have our veil

Dish dash, swish swash, skull cap devotion

Beard trimmed, book and beads bludgeon

Memorized words, forgotten meanings

Closed mind, closed heart, open mouth

Judgment day is every day, warn and wail

How we all do have our veil

Flower child, hemp, henna, hash, incense smoke

Organic, fair-trade, farm-fresh, all-natural

Meditate, yoga, part-time Buddhist

Your pedestal, legs of desire, artificial

Money can’t buy enlightenment as tofu and kale

How we all do have our veil

Sunday pancake breakfast, maple syrup faith

Bibles stacked bricks blockade, fort of verse

Belief in Lord’s compassion, ends with the other

Darky, different, demons, disclaim true diversity

Forget forgiveness from hand pierced nail

How we all do have our veil

Bar-long friendship, shot, laugh, chaser

Illusion conversation, talk at, talk at, not with

Speak plastic sincerity, delve deep to dispel desires

Hone sellable humility, dim illumination

Revelations intoxication, cheap as ale

How we all do have our veil

Soft-spoken, supple spine, sinuous sinner

Excuses, apologies, ask pity, crave sympathy

Snub inner strength for victimhood’s fame

Energy, emotion, empathy succubus

Never seek the win, always crave to fail

How we all do have our veil

Got No Guitar or Rhythm:

I found that I have begun introducing myself as Kalthoum... or whatever name I happen to be called at the time. Sometimes when I meet new people and they ask me my name, I stumble confused. I think to myself, "Shouldn't you be giving me my name?" So in an attempt to reassert my identity before I return home here is a little country-ish diddy I wrote. At some point we'll see if I'm brave enough to actually sing it. I sang it to Ryane and his response was to try and yank the skin off my arm and scream... this doesn't bode well. This is very silly and needs some work, okay a lot of work.

(Looking for some help with this, who can write a good country song/play a stringed instrument?... anyone?)

Grew up in Virginia ran through my fields with bare feet

Lost my favorites cats on that damn old busy street

I’ll introduce myself to you if chance says we should meet

Not layla or Kalthoum, I’m Kelsey Austin Threatte

Can’t count the times I befriended a stray cat

Have so many families from Rabat to Muscat

My name’s a little tricky, should get it printed on a hat

New mommas rename me when we begin to chat

For many reasons my name changes, not seen as legit,

But before I forget what’s written on my birth certificate

Let me sing it loud and proud:

My name is Kelsey

Got lost on back streets in Africa and the Middle East

Captetown, Cairo, Casablanca, liked Dubai the least

Could live in Oregon just for a mountain cherry feast

Love sunsets, got no regrets

My name is Kelsey

Don’t like fancy jewelry, diamonds or a big ol’ ruby gem

Never drink much, don’t do drugs, but love Tylenol PM

Loved to play in the creek all day chewin on a wheat stem

Dream of flyin though I’m scared of tryin

My name is Kelsey

I love my family something fierce, more than I can say

Cherish the long long long conversations with my brother J

I’ve gone to Church, Mosque and Synagogue, prayed in every way

I’d choose mountains over the beach on any given day

My mom and dad gave it to me

Pretty good name I do agree

My name is Kelsey

Maybe an ordinary girl unworthy of this rhyme

But here’s my opportunity to sing it one more time

My hand’s extended to you, so happy we should meet

My name’s not Cici or Maburka, it’s Kelsey Austin Threatte

Not Kelsita, Kittie, or Kate. Not Aisha, Fairuz or Khadija

I’m the only me I know how to be, My name is Kelsey

An open letter to Chester:

The man whose hand grabbed me, the boy whose demand confused me, the “gentleman” whose assumption sickened me: it is not they who have won if I should crumble. They are fed nothing by the breaking of my spirit. The only one to gain is the gray haze of unconscious ignorance. It is indifferent to emotion, intellect, and humanity. It is a numbness of the place just behind the eyes. Like the spirit still sleeps and the angels have fled. The unconsciousness is mud that sucks you down forcing you to abandon your shoes if you wish to escape. I will not, cannot, shall not abandon the beauty of the wind rippling long golden grace like ocean waves or the white stork perched on the Donkey’s shoulder as he sleeps.

If the redness of the strawberries sold in the bus stop parking lot no longer connect me to the world or inspires in me childhood nostalgia of Virginia fields, I lose.

If I forget sympathy, empathy, compassion sucked deep inside the self or attached to the shell, I lose.

If I let these incidents weigh down my rucksack, fill the space between my toothbrush and torn jeans, I lose.

If I allow these emotions to spin on the reel, chained to a reliving of events, replayed like an old movie, I lose.

If anger and passion do not step to transcend to their deeper, pure form because my grip on them is too fierce for forgiveness, I lose.

I welcome tears, anger and curses. I embrace violation, pain, and regret. It is better to live them then swallow them. Better to experience than to carry. So come with your unconsciousness. Test my patience, naivety, trust and strength. Though I will fail to say the right thing, take the right action, display the right courage I fail only in mastering the situation, I do not fail myself. If my skin is thicker, but my heart softer, I win.



PS- Spent a week with two amazing girls and a lovely adventure, then a week living out a dream of working in a restaurant at a place that I lovingly refer to as the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Now volunteering in Tangier, getting hustled, hassled, harassed, and learning more lessons than I would probably like to. Full explanations to come... insha'allah.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Queen Anne's Lace

Silent trees stretch upward, tickle the sun
Gravel flies by, kick up dust as we run
Her smile and shout begins the footrace
Memories in a field of Queen Anne's lace

Bought my ticket home.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alarm Clocks

I do not know what I believe. I believe that beliefs are too definite and prefer good ideas and to float above fences. But one truth I hold, closer to me than my veins, as strong as the thumping in my chest: people are necessarily good. In any given situation and provided the correct circumstances all people will act with good intention. (Don’t roll your eyes, this is my blog and I can say what I want) Of course good intention and justice may not necessarily align and any other number of factors may be included to fumble good intention and keep us from the creation of a world or society anywhere near utopian. I don’t want utopia and I believe utopia should not be part of our collective aspiration. But what I believe deters us from acting in the name of right is our own unconsciousness.

A fully conscious person is aware of themselves, their surroundings, others, and the impact of their actions on the bigger picture, the world as a whole. A fully conscious person only fails to do what is right because of the factors of incomplete knowledge- though we must assume that complete knowledge is impossible and some degree of ignorance inevitable. Yet, it seems the downfall of consciousness is that it is easiest from a sitting position. To distance yourself from actions, interactions, and the buzzing of everyday life enables an easier grasp of consciousness. When we observe we safeguard ourselves from slipping into motions and being lulled to sleep by the unconsciousness of others. Consciousness requires immense energy, awareness, and effort, which are easiest to accomplish when distanced from the bustling world. But this arm chair surveillance is neither optimal nor preferable due to the beauty and chaos of life. We were meant to live and to avoid life in order to retain control of our own consciousness is undoubtedly a mistake. We must work towards a way that life, consciousness, and the good are pursued.

Though the following blog is rambling, nothing fits, rather confusing usually, and born from scribbled notes I’ve written in the back of books, on my hand, and on scraps of paper, it is different moments when I searched for an explanation to the shortcomings of humankind, including in myself. But based on my belief, I hope to have my wits about me enough to ensure that I didn’t mix up the am and pm switch again so that if I should slip back to sleep my alarm clock will sound, ring out: awake consciousness.

My big goal

I have a very hazy conception of where I’m going. As I wandered through the backstreets of Fez, aside ancient medina walls, weaved through crowded souks, and wandered through overgrown fields; I created a new motto for much of my life, wanderings, and ramblings “You can’t be lost if you don’t know where you’re going.” After wandering in the hot sun for hours with no conception of where I am, discovering train tracks and fields of wildflowers, dead ends, makeshift soccer pitches, and crowded school yards I would repeat my motto. “I can’t be lost,” suddenly I’m staring at a derelict factory and a singular man with an empty cart at an abandoned intersection, “if I don’t know where I’m going.”

It’s not necessarily a positive motto to have. Having an end goal, a big dream, a destination whatever it may be whether reachable or not, gives us both direction and drive. Usually this big dream is a job, but ever since I was young I never had a “dream job” nothing ever inspired me to push myself, be smarter, faster, or work towards a special skill. It’s very useful to have a talent when finding inspiration for your big life goal, but I lack special aptitude for anything in particular. Anything I have gained is because it’s unexpectedly fallen into my hands or I’ve worked tirelessly for it. So seeking my end goal in this way eludes me.

As I read more about how to be an effective teacher I discover the importance of making big, but measurable goals. Data that proves progress instead of grand ideals with no way to know how or if we have reached them. I have been curious as to how to connect all that I’ve done this year to what I will do next. Are they cop outs from the real world? From conventionality? Getting a job and setting myself on a foreseeable path to the future. I don’t know. I don’t care. But because I would rather not be lost too long in the sun I will set about to determine my personal big goal.

As I have grown I only knew one thing since I was small, I want to help people. This craving can be satisfied in numerous ways and therefore makes being directed down a specific path that much more difficult. I remember the instant I decided to pursue studying politics/International relations/philosophy, I heard that by studying this I could work for a non-profit. At the time I barely knew what a non-profit was, but just the sound “non-profit” and its grand implications intrigued me to the point that I spent 3.5 years and enough money to drive a mustang off a cliff in pursuing it. Now having spent a year traveling, studying, living and exploring I still have little conception of my “dream job” or “big life goal.” But as I prepare for Teach for America’s summer institute and for two years as a teacher in Philadelphia (if all goes as planned) my nerves and excitement are rattling my bones and I’m very satisfied with the potential prospects of what’s to come.

Truth be told, I never desired to be a teacher, never imagined myself along that path. What I do want is indistinct and insubstantial: I want to make a difference, to do good. Education and awakening the mind is the first step to freedom, self-respect, and demanding ones rights. I would be honored to aid young students, especially those overlooked, undervalued, underserved, and unrepresented, that they have control of their lives, their minds, their paths. So that’s where I’ll begin. I don’t know if my lack of skill, different background, and own unconsciousness will fate this grand goal to whither and fade, but I will not set aside my waxen wings before I’ve had the chance to test them. For failure is not failure with right intention and a desire to learn. Once you believe you’ve won, you’ve accomplished your goal- in this are the seeds of failure.

However, I don’t know where I want to go from here, but at least I know where I don’t want to be: locked behind a computer or desk. My internship with a refugee organization proved that I could be happy behind a computer if it meant pursuing a cause I felt worthy, but the idea of it still gives me the willies. Do you know that feeling where you are driving to work/school, a familiar route and you arrive at your destination with little memory or conception of how you got there? Forty-five minutes of your life spaced out, erased. Not necessarily an important event and its absence from our minds is insignificant. But what happens when your whole week is like that?-When Monday skips to Friday and the days run together, indistinct like oatmeal; bland mush (no offense to oatmeal). That’s what I don’t want.

I desire most to feel the weight of whatever I earn. What good does your high salary do for you when you spend most of your week feeling voiceless, trapped. If you work because you do it for your family, need the income then your work is not your life and your greater goal can ease the burden of each day. But if it’s for supposed added comfort to give your family what you think they deserve; bigger house, big TV, big refrigerator… then maybe you should reexamine your priorities. Suburbia will not make you and your family complete. Know that you will never be satisfied. You’ll never have the life you dreamed of, in the house you dreamed of with the family and dog you dreamed of. Now you can hold these images in your heart, but once you let go of their actualization you can start living. Really living. The radio’s buzzing the day’s weather, the light’s a subdued yellow, air conditioner whirs, now take this time to wake up. As long as whatever job I am in I am conscious and can recall the weight of my days- that is my big goal.

My journeys present and soon to come are blood in the same vein. They are a desire to seek, inspire, and awake (both in myself and others) consciousness. Aiding in any way I can (though I may lack the skill) through the advancement of education, an increased awareness of self-worth, and individuality in young students, especially those overlooked, undervalued, underserved, and unrepresented. What seems most vital to me is to make my students aware that they have control of their lives, their minds, their paths.

I realized I could take control of my education in the 7th grade and though my consciousness and control has waxed and waned over the years, that first step of conscious control has undoubtedly changed my life. If I can help other in any way to realize their own worth and ability to direct their lives, especially at this young, critical age, then I will not regret. But for this to be more than just another lovely ideal I must establish some substantial measureable big goals (that will of course be altered as I learn more about logistics, realities, and gain experience). But for now my big goal is that I hope to remember and help to inspire in others to set their alarm clocks, ring out: awake consciousness.


Immortal Technique spits dark diatribe in my ears, Saadawi rebels on the page, and I turn over in my mind a new perspective on those who study the “third world” and become experts on an area, a civilization, which they very well had little previous contact with. A society, a culture, an entire people or segment of a community is reduced to an intellectual endeavor. People are not people, they’re pages. The same is true of our past. History and present don’t quite fit together, separated by ink, paper, and time. There is no overlap, no truth. I do not mean that these studies are not worthwhile, not important components of expanding and advancing our knowledge as humans. But it is when we fail to see the reality in its many meaningful intricacies and connections, we make our biggest mistake. By accepting this failure as normal, ordinary and by overlooking it in the academic world and in our day to day we are ensuring not our advancement as a people, but our disconnection with others and the world around us. It is true in academics and the everyday.

There is something about seeing the news on television or reading about an event in a book that separates that event from our reality. When a business bankrupts, a bomb explodes, or a president is elected; we watch and become informed, but it ends there. We may cry at disaster, rejoice at victory, but more likely than not those feelings will not inspire us to any action. That deep, internal string that ties us to one another is tugged, but the string is not attached to our mind or to our muscles. The string does not inspire movement, only emotion. Perhaps if we were more connected to our emotions with our minds and if our limbs could move more quickly at the mind’s urging we would be able to link the news, a scholarly report, a documentary, a photograph, our reality with our world,. A world that excludes most people and things. Perhaps the populous would demand the same awareness of their leaders and those in power would not be so quick to conflict and corruption. Academics would not declare “clash of civilizations” or judge another people, criticizing it as a parent does a misbehaving child. Scholars, leaders, those with white collars, blue collars, and no collars- Let every beautiful bird and bomb blast ring out: awake consciousness.


The conversations repeat, motions of sound, each brick in the same wall and the words flow like water after mountain snow has thawed. Is it small steps in circles to close in on a reality or just energy and breath lost in the space between mouth and ears? Our discussion’s meaning is muddled so I search for significance in the eyes of the conversers. Before we drone and drown in empty thoughts and the weightless words of sleepwalkers let our alarm clocks, ring out: awake consciousness.


We speak of education as gold and status above others, but I envy old mother sheep herder sitting on the hillside. We are filled by expectations, taught to us since childhood. Desires become as natural as breathing and encompass us as a second skin. What we need is so simple, but we crave the complex. Diluted, tainted, confused, distanced from its plain, pure, source. Four years in college will do you little good if you spend it asleep. Students of life at every age, set your alarms, ring out: awake consciousness.


What if we could teach the conscious to fight ego? Would the outer crumble when the false bones gilded in superiority are deconstructed through a true understanding and connection with reality? Ego’s an alcohol, a drug, it deludes and deceives. Ego is what we eat when we seek sustenance and find sweets easy and tempting. Ego’s a fence that distances us from our neighbors and inhibits conversation and connections. Ego’s a steamy mirror, we can only see ourselves, and even that self we observe is obscured. Remember your true bones, the internal cells, a strong structure beyond fleeting forms. You are more than the you that you perceive yourself to be. Once we realize this, we will have little fear to face ourselves and others without ego’s mask. Our weapon is simple, an alarm clock to ring out; awake consciousness.


There is a lack of writing about what it means to be White, in particular (because it’s the only white I know) what it means to be white in America. Now you may say wait, we are constantly surrounded by what it means to be white. White history, White culture, White society, and White traditions. Turn on the TV, open a textbook, look at the advertisements on a billboard. It’s everywhere. I personally automatically correlate any of this type of discussion with groups like the KKK and wish to distance myself from being associated with my race or a discussion of it in comparison to other races. But perhaps it’s about time to set aside a fear that I will be associated with racist extremists because discussion is more productive and important than silence and a misinformed connection. White life is something that is ingrained into the everyday of white people so that we do not question it; it is status quo, neutral. To us it is considered the norm to such an extent that we (I am speaking as a very white person… very white to me means I am not going to pretend that I’m an eighth Native American or something) rarely take an academic or critical look at the communities of white America. Those of us who are white do not look to our whiteness as a source of identity.

Being white and the associated way of life and conventions are the X-axis, the base, a blank slate upon which all other achievements, knowledge, sources of distinction are based. I’m a woman, college graduate, Fellow, and soon to be teacher. I would never consider including “white” anywhere in there. Yet, for other races this would likely be a crucial factor in their identity. I do not mean that we should have a White-American major in schools or devote it any undue pride, start a movement, or anything even slightly related to that… in fact far very very far from it. I mean to begin this discussion in terms of its importance to understanding ourselves as individuals, our broader community with its rich diversity, and to better recognize the racism and stereotypes ingrained in part of our society, tradition, and every day. Racism that may not be malicious or conscious, but is undoubtedly a detrimental force in America.

White people need to see white as a part of their identity, a source of who they are, and how it plays a significant role in their life as a member of a majority. I do not intend to inspire guilt, but only a greater consciousness for something that I believe we overlook. Our failure to understand what it means to be white, that we have our own traditions, culture, version of history, and lifestyle (though it changes based on region, wealth, and various other factors) is highly unfavorable. After diversity readings for Teach for America, reading Saadawi (an Egyptian feminist), and gaining a taste of what it means to be a minority I bring this idea forward now though it may seem out of place.

There are two main reasons why I believe this discussion should not be ignored, laughed off, or uncomfortably set aside as taboo; most importantly, it brings to light much of the racism below the surface that we accept, perpetuate, and enable through our own obliviousness to its existence or the extent to which it has and can harm our diverse American society. Secondly, the extent to which young white people (from my perspective because it’s all I know) question their identity, who they are, and where they fit in the world may be lessened or aided if we saw ourselves in context. We are not the blank slate, our whiteness is not “normal” or “ordinary” and any deviation from whiteness something curious. But it seems the white privilege follows me even to distant lands where being white is a minority. As I walked to the small shop to purchase some lotion with Hajja I was taken aback and slightly embarrassed to see dozens of white faces staring at me from their high shelves, smiling to sell hair die, perfume, and crèmes. In a society dominated by beautiful women with Mediterranean olive-colored skin, bronze Berbers, and black Africans I am ashamed and saddened to see only (without exception) pale faces and skin lighteners surrounding me. But this maybe another thing altogether.

Sometimes I like to think about how white people think about other cultures, people, and civilizations. There is a distinct disconnection and condescension with others, as if by researching them, watching documentaries about them, reading about them in National Geographic makes them not quite human, not quite real. When you fail to recognize the humanity in others and seek out only the brightly colored clothes, spicy foods, unusual housing, and festivals then you are failing as a member of the human race.

I am speaking about race, but this is true of so many important factors in our individual lives; gender, sexual orientation, religion, and affluence just to name a few. But becoming more aware of who we are, how we relate to one another, and what factors that we consider the status quo are truly just an unearned advantage to certain groups. (One person who has been very successful in discussing this idea is Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” if you wish to read more about the idea). Don’t feel guilty, that doesn’t do anyone any good. Be more informed, aware, understanding, compassionate. In sum, let our alarm clocks ring out; awake consciousness.

Barbie Dolls

Perfumed, plastic people, artificial eyes, mother can’t recognize

Curly black now blonde blown dry, beach-baked skin, brown eyes blue

Oh Barbie of the Bahr, sweet Tunisian teen, Abu Dhabi darling

Drowning in a magazine, mascara masked maiden, gloss and rouge

Care more for the color on your lips than the words on your tongue

Character an act, paper doll disposition

Feeble your frame, hopes of fame, foil of freedom

Self sold, reputation bought, price tag for your personality

Defend decisions, mouth mimes: “my choice”

Sounds static, voice dusty from disuse

Talk talk talk; dandelion petals, disappear with a draft

Defend decisions, mouth mimes: “my life”

Life’s synonym isn’t sparkle; souls sit deeper in being

Individuality’s an organ nestled behind the sternum

Skin can reflect, not embody

Clothes are allusion, not the story

Jeweled hijaab; veil not flesh, but self

Heirloom headscarf abandoned under the bed

Reject Paradise for plastic Prada pride, Gucci glory

Mother’s milk made you, now search for name brand bones

Oh baby girl, what happened to your mother’s child?

Come and go in such hurry, stranger to home

Left your original self on the shelf,

But while you’re at the mall, she will walk in,

whisper words of love like food to the abandoned child,

when you tire of your days drinking sugar substitute, true identity waits

I’ll call you fake, artificial, affected, but my skin’s syran wrap

how we all do struggle the same

Under differing traditions and other names

Wash away what we wish, accept who we are

Take back our dreams denied, burn the desires whispered in our ear

Plaster will crumble and plastic will melt

For the sake of our mothers, for the sake of ourselves

Patriarchy, hierarchy, against the isms, internal schisms

Tradition, modernity, popular, punk…

Boast so much beauty beyond body and form

Storm woman, stamp sisters, scream to remember your sound

Not effigy or trophy, no pedestal or prince, fight fad, find freedom

Drink full from the cup of self, and awake consciousness


If in your love you find lust, set expectations, anticipate outcomes- truly it is not love.

If you’re disappointed by love, proud, or jealous- truly it is not love.

If your love demands apology, asks forgiveness, seeks justification- truly it is not love.

If you would give up yourself for love, demean your being, lie down as a rug- truly it is not love.

If you sing, write, dance in devotion to love, consumed by love, addicted to love- truly it is not love.

If love asks of you, takes from you, gives you more than a glimpse of one unending energy of human existence- truly it is not love.

Love is not enough. It is not the question or the answer. It is not a purpose or excuse.

Love is an action, a movement, to wait a façade, beyond the internal or physical. Potential versus kinetic energy.

Love never forgets itself though it may be misunderstood, misread and misnamed.

Love is the candle and the flame that needs us to strike the match against life’s blowing winds.

Love requires knowledge of self, a stronger person. Shallow knowing means shallow love.

Love is without conflict, it is we who create this in our yearning for problems, resolution, and fleeting fulfillment and satisfaction. We long for the crash, but love is devoid of desires.

Love is not synonymous with relationship. Relationship requires you to hold both hope and reality in your palm, which necessitates daily effort both physically and mentally.

Love is something so easy and so difficult for minds wired against the enjoyment of the simple and ever present. Those people, things, and places taken for granted are the most precious, yet undervalued, overlooked.

Love is a force so strong that to know it is to respect yourself for feeling it.

Love makes no claim or command, promises nothing, and can give you nothing.

Love is without preference and is beyond equality. It is in all places, people, and things at all times, but to feel it, glimpse it, breathe it, you must tear down your inner walls, break internal chains that restrict us from experiencing love’s ecstasy. You contain this love within you. What a tremendous privilege. What awesome power. What unspeakable responsibility. You who have knowledge of love must value yourself for being the urn of such an invaluable force in our world, minds, and souls. To give yourself up for the sake of your love, it is not for love, but fear, for the sake of ease, or a particular yearning. When we mar ourselves through a lessening of ambition, dampening of dreams, demeaning of self because we believe love asks it of us, it is not true love that demands this of us.

If love gives nothing, accepts nothing, resides in all things at all times, yet remains unattached to the physical, but seems unaccustomed to the mental: what is love?

When we think of love it is between two people, but this is not my opinion of love’s true definition. When you love another it is because they may act as the key that opens the door between heart and mind, individual and mankind, humanity and nature. He or she is the insight into a realm of communion and pure contentment. But that person or thing that inspires you to know love is a vessel only, not the source of love. Therefore to concentrate our efforts on these varying vessels instead of recognizing the beauty (that is love manifest) in all things, we misunderstand love’s truth. Love is beyond worship of the divine. Love is not an emotion. Love is our soul’s brief embrace to the universal consciousness. Let true love sing out: awake consciousness.