Thursday, January 14, 2010

'The Light of Thy Countenance'


Maryam Sakeenah

‘The apparition of faces in the crowd’,
Worn perfectly, charmingly, flaunted around
With eye-catching flourishes,
Done-up, painted, calculated,
Encrusted with lies, deceit, conceit
And cheap powder.
Dazzling, cosmetic smiles,
The wiles and the guiles
Practised to perfection.

Amidst the profusion of faces
The loneliness haunts,
‘I am as the tulip of the field,
In company I stand alone.’
Amidst the babel of competing voices
The silence echoes aloud_
Silence that uncannily resonates
With the far-off, muffled cries and screams
Of some distant folk
Uglily flashing on telly screens,
Periodically, like commercials in bad taste.

I am caught up in the rush; lured, I waver_
My wholeness, my humanity
Is rent asunder;
I am pulled apart.
My soul, my true worth, identity
Under the trappings
Of skin, name, titles, backgrounds,
Stereotypes, prejudices, images, reputations,
Tags, labels, letters behind my name.
I am branded with a price-tag,
Accorded a place on the social ladder,
My value calculated, my worth sized up
My limits delineated
My being suffocated
Objectified, reduced to a thing_
A thing with a pretty face,
Perfectly presentable
Among high society.

I refuse, I resist, I rise
Not so much to change, but to refuse being changed,
To refuse being manipulated, trimmed, pruned
Around the rougher edges.
I hold out; the tempest
Of my unkillable, militant humanness
Grows maddening; the tide
Bursts forth, overwhelming
The conventions, the rules of the petty games,
The norms of ‘social appropriacy.’
I refuse to measure out my heartbeats
By cellphone beeps, cigarette stubs, empty bottles.

Amidst the deluge of faces,
Encounters, flourishes and graces,
The heart is left wanting,
The soul craving, longing
For Home.
For the Peace that was my birthright,
For that warmth I have longed to bask in
Like a mother’s enveloping arms
Waiting after a long, wearying day.

Amidst the heavily peopled world,
The heart thirsts for a draught of thorough humanness,
A spark of passion,
That fire of True Love
That warms, energizes,
Flares, blazes, rises
Bringing mist to the eyes.
My trembling hands reach out
Groping desperately
For an anchor to hold on to,
A trustworthy Handhold.
My wearied eyes yearn
For the Light of Thy Countenance
That dispels all darkness,
Never dims, never wanes.

I have walked the Desert Places,
I traversed the empty spaces
Hulking at the core of civilization.
And I choose to tread
The Steep Path,
That Road less travelled.
I seek the Light of Thy Countenance,
I seek Love
That enriches with the pain of longing,
Ennobles with the patience of this long wait.
Love that is beautified
With suffering and sacrifice,
Love that declares
‘I have already submitted,’
‘I hear and I obey.’
Love reddened with the heart’s blood,
Purified with tears in lonely nights,
Captured in sacred ink.
Love that transforms every endeavour
Into loving labour in Thy Hallowed Name;
Love that elevates,
Heals, fulfils, completes,
Quenches the languishing, gasping spirit,
Leading me Homewards,
My hand in Thine!