Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breast Self-Examination: A Poem

By S. E. Jihad Levine
© 2008

Slathering Mediterranean Rose bath gel over
my breasts,
preparing for my monthly
hands slipping and sliding as the
sweet-smelling aroma of rose rises
to my nostrils,
taking me away from the present task,
transporting me back to
numerous summer afternoons,
long ago,
alone in my bedroom,
lying on top of my white chenille bedspread
amidst a field of pink and blue
yarn-tufted flowers,
eyes rolled back into my head,
breathing long and steady,
perky nipples perched
atop minute mounds of soft flesh
that in my 13-year old mind
passed for a woman’s breasts,
nipples as hard as
fresh-shucked sweet peas,
the touch of my own hands
lightly pinching
feeling far better than the touch of anyone else or
anyone since,
including that of my Uncle Tony.

Kneading and pressing my breasts now, in a
circular and focused manner,
not lying on a chenille bed spread of flowers
but hidden behind a fabric shower curtain,
haunted by the voice of my dead mother:
“Don’t ever touch yourself,”
she warned,
“there … or there,”
she said, pointing to the places.
“And don’t let anyone else
do it either!”
Not even Uncle Tony?
I wanted to ask her, but
he also warned me:
"Don't ever tell."

Memories of her shame and mine
wash over me as my
fingers search for the
dreaded symptom of
breast cancer.
Looking for a different type of pea,
but not a sweet one -
how did the brochure describe it?
like a pearl?
or a marble?
like the one Sis Nadirah found?
that betrayed her and became a hard lump?
Or the one that ended Sister Atiyah’s life?
But not before she watched her husband
die from complications of HIV?

Finished with the monthly ritual,
I roll back my head,
exhaling a long breath,
feeling a different kind of satisfaction:

Alhamdulillah, nothing found this month.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Locking Up Allah's House

Thank you to my readers (if there's anyone left!) for your patience. I didn't expect to be gone from blogging this long, but the move to the new home has been a real jihad. But Alhamdulillah for the blessing of a new home! I have been trying to unpack boxes, get adjusted, clean, etc., and it has been difficult due to my physical situation and no help. Ya Allah! But anyhow:

My husband went to the masjid last Friday for Jumuah. And the masjid was locked. No one was there. It also happened one other time in July where he had gone to the masjid for Jumuah and no one showed up.

The first issue is the locking up of Allah's (swt) house. I really do understand the need in certain areas for locking the masjid. Our masjid has had it's share of vandalism, etc.

But if "those in charge" of the masjid are going to lock it, shouldn't one of them assume the responsibility of opening it for the salaat and Jumuah prayers?

Shouldn't at least ONE person assume responsibility for being there at these times?

Some brothers who visit our masjid regularly from out-of-town have been given keys to the masjid. This is like saying, "Well brother, salaat in the masjid and Jumuah is hit-or-miss here. But you can have a key for when you come around and we're not here."

What about those Muslims who consistently participate at our masjid, but who have not been given the "honor" of having a key to Allah's (swt) house? For example, I have assumed the responsibility of starting an Islamic library for the children of this masjid. I asked for a key so I could get in when I had time to arrange the books and do work in the library. I was sent around-the-mountain to various people in the masjid until I got frustrated and took the hint. Why don't these people come straight out and tell me that they don't want me to have a key? Ya Allah! I belong to a Yahoo group for Muslims from the masjids in all the surrounding areas. One new Muslim posted that she went to such-and-such masjid and it too was locked and no one was around. What kind of message does this give to the new Muslim? What kind of masjid is it when no one shows up for salaat and Jumuah?
Another issue with the locking of the masjid concerns when we have special events. One time, we received an email that the masjid would be having a "family night". Alhamdulillah, a good thing. The email stated that it would start at 4:30 p.m. At that time, the Asr prayer was around 5 p.m. or so. So I figured that they would open the doors at 4:30 p.m., as stated in the email, and that we would all be able to make our Asr salaat in congregation. Well, NO ONE showed up until AFTER the Asr prayer!!! Someone finally showed up with a key after 5:30 or so. Other people started to drift in around 6 p.m. Due to the locking of the masjid, I have had to adjust to "third-world time". Whatever time they tell you to show up means that you should add an hour to it. A 5 p.m. function becomes 6 p.m. and so forth.
Am I frustrated? You bet I am.
Another thing that frustrates me?
WTF doesn't Blogger format paragraphs correctly?
Rant done ...