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Flash Back, personal essays, writing life

Flashback Friday

Lately I’ve been working on a number of poems that deal with when I was a kid. Belive it or not, those are the most difficult poems to write. I just dusted off a poem that I started two years ago. Some folks liked when I read it a few times but inside I knew it wasn’t finished but I couldn’t figure out “what” exactly needed work. It turns out I hadn’t resolved a few things about growing up. And, I may never, really resolve some those things.

For instance, I really miss how religion or the institution of religion was central to my youth. Whether it was going to Church with my grandparents or selling Final Call newspapers as a junior FOI or taking my shahadah as a teenager. Those were some very formative and special times. But unfortunately, as I got a little older, I began to notice so many doubles that it became impossible for me to “belong” to any group who spends most of their time “seeming” righteous. I guess you could say, I’ve grown cynical. Yet, I consider myself a staunch “believer.”

I don’t know, I’m pretty sure there’s a happy medium. These days writing has almost taken the place of religion. It’s my opening to tap into the divine. So much of writing has to do with being a good person and growing and being courageous. (at least for me it does).

It’s difficult to be areligious, particularly when you have a uber-religious name as I do. At least once a week, I’m forced into a conversation about the middle east conflict or am I a practicing Muslim. Though, I love my name, I find it’s hard to put certain parts of my past behind when it has become so central to who I am. I’m reminded of the line from Erykah Badu’s song “Me” ,

Sometimes its hard to move you see

when you growing publicly

but if I have to choose between

I choose me.

I think the chief problem for me is that I can dismiss any of the things that gnaw at me or cause anxiety because I’m a sum of all of those things. I joked the other day that I can’t really be prejudiced towards anyone. I try not to participate in the “hate whitey” talks with my friends because my grandmother is of European descent, and my greatgrandmother is Jewish. And, though they didn’t raise my mom, I’m always curious about what if they did. Would that have mended some of the broken shelves inside this writer’s chest?

The poet Thomas Sayers Ellis once teased that I’m the Poet Laureate of family matters. Maybe I headed in that direction. I can’t be the only one with family issues.

About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.


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