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love and hope
lost and broken.
All women speak two languages:
the language of men
and the language of silent suffering.
Some women speak a third,
the language of queens.
They are marvelous
and they are my friends.
My friends give me poetry.
If it were not for them
I’d be a seamstress out of work.
They send me their dresses
and I sew together poems,
enormous sails for ocean journeys.
My marvelous friends, these women
who are elegant and fix engines,
who teach gynecology and literacy,
and work in jails and sing and sculpt
and paint the ninety-nine names,
who keep each other’s secrets
and pass on each other’s spirits
like small packets of leavening,
it is from you I fashion poetry.
I scoop up, in handfuls, glittering
sequins that fall from your bodies
as you fall in love, marry, divorce,
get custody, get cats, enter
supreme courts of justice,
argue with God.
You rescuers on galloping steeds
of the weak and the wounded–
Creatures of beauty and passion,
powerful workers in love–
you are the poems.
I am only your stenographer.
I am the hungry transcriber
of the conjuring recipes you hoard
in the chests of your great-grandmothers.
My marvelous friends–the women
of brilliance in my life,
who levitate my daughters,
you are a coat of many colors
in silk tie-dye so gossamer
it can be crumpled in one hand.
You houris, you mermaids, swimmers
in dangerous waters, defiers of sharks–
My marvelous friends,
thirsty Hagars and laughing Sarahs,
you eloquent radio Aishas,
Marys drinking the secret
milkshakes of heaven,
slinky Zuleikas of desire,
gay Walladas, Harriets
parting the sea, Esthers in the palace,
Penelopes of patient scheming,
you are the last hope of the shrinking women.
You are the last hand to the fallen knights
You are the only epics left in the world
Come with me, come with poetry
Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–
From E-mails from Scheherazad by Mohja
Kahf, University Press of Florida, USA, 2003.
SOURCE: PEELS OF POETRY
The Marvelous Women
One of the primary messages of the Qur’an is that people
should recognize the beautiful and do what is beautiful. This
is not simply a moral beauty but a visual and auditory beauty
as well. Conduct should be beautiful, writing should be
beautiful and speaking should be beautiful.
~ MOHJA KAHF AS QUOTED IN WISE MUSLIM WOMEN.
It is just so refreshing for someone to put a lighter spin on
being a Muslim in America. Are we only going to talk about
the war, are we only going to talk about how our faith is so
misunderstood? It gets really old.
~ DINA IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN PROFESSOR, AS QUOTED IN WISE
Kahf’s work “draws on American colloquialisms and Quranic
suras; it is informed not only by American free verse … but
also by a lush energy that draws on the heart of the Arabic
oral tradition and Arabic poetry.”
~ LISA SUHAIR MAJAJ, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN POET AND SCHOLAR, AS
QUOTED IN POETRY FOUNDATION.
ARAB IDOL 2013
Born in Damascus,
Syria, in 1967, Kahf is
a Syrian-American poet
As a child in 1971, she
moved with her
parents to Utah. After
moving to Indiana, her
family settled in New
Jersey where Kahf
received her doctorate
literature at the
She is currently an
associate professor in
Department at the
University of Arkansas,
literature and Middle
Her conception of
Islamic feminism and
issues facing American
Muslims influence her
work. She explores
historical women in
Kahf's poetry has been
published in The Paris
Review, the Atlantic
Review, Ozark Gazette,
and the Paterson
In 2002, she received
Arkansas Arts Council
Individual Artist grant
for her literary
Her poetry collection,
was a finalist for the
Her novel, The Girl in
the Tangerine Scarf,
depicting a Muslim's
girl coming of age in
Indiana, was published
She won a Pushcart
Prize 2010 for her
essay "The Caul of